Disruptions, Adaptation, Creativity, Resilience Good Will and Luck – the Next 50 Years


         The next several generations will have to manage a much more complex matrix of social, political, economic and environmental disruptions exceeding anything the human species has ever had to manage in its history (short of, I suppose, the great Ice Age.)


~dramatic population growth global

~significant urban growth   globally

~competition for food and natural resources ~increased global tribalism, fractured national & ethic   identities

~competition between nations for political dominance and economic hegemony

~climate change & extreme weather variation

~greater concentration of wealth & extreme income inequality

~environmental degradation

~profound & rapid technological change ramifying throughout global societies

~robotics and corollary social and employment impacts ~ubiquitous IOT/near-term AI             singularity

~cyber-warfare & cyber crime

~personal privacy exposure

~infrastructure degradation

~challenges to energy  production & distribution



These and many other disruptions and challenges will be the new “normal” which our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be impelled to come to grips.

All of these disruptive impending systems and events are the result of human activity arising from a preoccupation in short-term self-interest that ignored or minimized the future impacts of that behavior. Though short-term interest has always been an element of human nature, the “mergers and acquisitions” movement of the 80’s and 90’s compressed the horizon for determining the value of the investment (whether equity or personal capital) from a long-term view (years) to very short-term (nano-seconds). This doesn’t leave much room for reflection on the ramifications of this behavior or any long-term planning which could clarify the impacts of this behavior. As such, the current vision is has been hyper-focused on the very near-term benefit of self-interest versus long term benefit of the greater good and issues of existential viability.

This form of thinking is very much out of sync with the mechanisms of natural processes and global sociological movement, phenomena which are not easily visible in the short-term but evolve out of much longer-term process.

The financial costs associated with anticipating near-term change and modifying the antiquated existing systems will be profoundly expensive; far in excess of what they would have been if addressed in a timely manner.  Impact mitigation, crisis management, economic dislocation, and lost opportunity and reconstruction of damaged capital and structure will be enormously expensive, consuming substantial capital investment that could have been allocated for a broader social benefit and the general welfare of the local, regional and global communities.

 [The debate over funding the Social Security System and imposing debt on future generations seems so trite and divisive in the face of these much more profound and burdensome debts that will have to be shouldered by future generations.]

The wonder of humans is their capacity to adapt and creatively solve problems. The future of human cultures and civilization will be defined by this ability and how well it is carried through in dealing with the profound changes that are happening now and will continue to happen in the next few generations.

The past two generations, in particular those of the wealthy western societies who had the greatest opportunity for positive action, have demonstrated a profound self-absorption and possessiveness, lack of forethought and a cohesive concern for their children as a generation.

Exacerbating this thoughtless and irresponsible vision of the future, the present generation (baby-boomers in particular) has been preoccupied with maintaining the status quo, that of relative comfort and has done little to coalesce behind a clear vision of what the future could look like nor adequately anticipated the means to mitigate impacts through modified behaviors.

It is the typical generational and perennial handoff “gift” to future generations. However, the breadth and negative ramifications of the ”gift” are geometrically far greater than any previous handed down to another generation. This is the “gift” of the “revolutionary ‘60’s/70’s boomers who were going to change the world; the Age of Aquarius!!

It is rather a pathetic circumstance that humans are a reactive species; I suppose all animals really are. Thoughtful planning and deferred gratification to act on a creating a shared vision of a future greater good is not really a universal human trait. The United Nations has been a noble attempt, with some real success. However, various national self-interests have inhibited its fuller actualization. It is particularly sad that in “first world” nations, nations with the capital and resource flexibility to engage in this sort of existential exercise, have been so incompetent in coalescing behind a greater good vision of the future.

However, it is now more important for these new generations (Millennial and Z- Generations) to project their energies into the future to develop a shared purpose in the interests of a greater good to not defer anticipating the dramatic changes that are rolling rapidly into our lives and to apply their intelligence and adaptive creativity to realistically come to grips with these near-term and long-term profound  changes. The World isn’t flat. It is profoundly complex and requires   novel and sustainable strategies ways.

It is a challenge of monumental proportions, not to be avoided (for existentially, there is no avoidance possible) but vigorously confronted, with an animation and a sense of optimism of “the possible”- humans can find mutual purpose and commonality in the challenges of the future finding personal opportunities and a sense of hope in the future.

But there can no longer be a short-term vision. Education must be purposeful and learning must optimize the broadest range of creative thinking and dynamic action. Silos of thought and silos of self-interest are simply the ostriches of human behavior which have little social merit and should be relegated to the heap of failed human endeavor.

Think deeply, reflectively and collaboratively. With our 10,000 year old brains, it is time to shift the way we live and care about our future and our children, and their children’s, children’s, children…….



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Careers of the Future – Disruption and Future Opportunity

The next several generations will have to  manage a much more complex matrix of disruptions exceeding (with the possible exception of the Ice Age) anything the human species has ever had to manage in its history. Dramatic population growth, competition for food and natural resources, increased global tribalism and fractured national  and ethic identities, climate change (global warming) with the profound challenges that extreme weather will impose, rapid technological change, robotics and corollary employment impacts, intense urbanization, cyber-integration, warfare,  and personal information intrusions….

These and many other disruptions will be the norm for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The creative abilities of the human species  has such profound  range and depth, that these disruptions could well be the drivers for a revolutionary leap in social relations and resource applications on a global scale. It is rather a pathetic circumstance that humans are a reactive species; I suppose all animals really are.  Planning and deferring gratification to create a profound future is not really a universal human trait. It is particularly sad that in first world nations which have the capital and resource flexibility to engage actively in this sort of existential exercise, there is little singularity of vision to coalesce for the greater good, local, national, regional, global.

However, it is now more important for these new generations to project into the future, develop the skills and  shared purpose to address and not defer their intelligence and adaptive creativity to anticipate the dramatic changes that are rolling rapidly  into our lives. The sense of common shared purpose and the excitement of coming to grips  with these near-term and long-term profound  changes, in novel and sustainable ways, can be powerful, exciting and expand the human creative box in novel ways.

It is a challenge of monumental proportions, not to be avoided (existentially, there is no avoidance possible) but with vigorous and with animation and optimism of the possible- humans can find mutual purpose and commonality in the challenges of the future and find hope and opportunities and a means of coping successfully, to the greater good.

But there can no longer be a short-term vision. Education must be purposeful and learning must optimize the broadest range of creative thinking and dynamic action. Silos of thought and silos of self-interest are simply the ostriches of human behavior which have little social merit,  are self-destructive  and should be relegated to the heap of failed human endeavor.

Think deeply, reflectively and collaboratively. With our 10,000 year old brains, it is time to shift the way we live and care about our future and our children, and their children’s, children’s, children…….

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The Life of an LD Student

Much of my academic career has been as an educator teaching and mentoring bright learning “disabled” students whose  capabilities of managing in a tightly prescribed world of standardized tests and lecture formatted, static  classroom teaching  environments, are always challenged. My early learning curve in understanding what the LD student has to put up with was virtually vertical. I had no previous experience with such learners, or if I had, I was oblivious to their difficulties, the stressors they had to endure, and the exhausting experience of keeping up.

No doubt, there were many such students in various classes I took as I was growing up and I don’t doubt that some of these “marginalized” students were the very one’s who sat as far away from the teacher as possible. Those of us who liked being up front, visible and  affirmed by the teacher, looked at them as disinterested or bored or comic kids, some not very bright it seemed;  many who ended up being constantly put back or not advancing to the next grade. That was the world of my generation. Such was the disdain we had. And at the same time we had a thoughtless  disregard for their feelings and circumstances. Looking back on it now with some shame and sorrow, we at the time knew very little about their inner struggles, about their feelings  and psychic exhaustion – only seeing them as the class clowns or the troublemakers.

It has been only in the past 30 years as a teacher and administrator working in a remarkable secondary school (whose mission was to work with these remarkable young men and women) and now as a mentor to high school and college students, LD and non-LD) – have I come to understand what a complex, non-linear process learning in all its forms, actually is.  I was schooled in an older, traditional model.  Repetitio est mater studiorum (learn by repetition and memory) was the mantra of my education. Rote and dusty. I still loved most of it because what I learned was interesting and I was pretty good a rote learning (as opposed to thinking). Such learning worked as proof in preparation for the SAT’s, but it was generally a vacuous, and insubstantial means for becoming an “fully-educated person”.

What I have learned as teacher however, is that the “teaching” techniques best suited for adolescents, whether LD or non-LD, are of the experiential kind; learning by doing and integrating multiple academic disciplines and skills as they would be blended in the lives we would actually live after leaving the academic world to live and work in the World.

Learning by doing, collaborating and mutual problem solving is an amazing tonic for all students, especially effective for the LD student who often has amazing capabilities that traditional learning modes do little to tap into.

It is an interesting note that some of the “best and brightest” students from some of the “best” independent boarding schools have for many years had the option to go off to “experiential sites” such as farms and natural mountain settings (managed by a consortium of those schools) for semester long academic experiential “schooling”. In this experiential environment they learn their English, mathematics, writing, various sciences, and cultural/ historical studies by living in a community that blends ideas and applications, making the reason for school much more tangible and meaningful to those adolescent minds which thrive on “the doing” and “thinking” blend. This is true learning with its incorporation of ideas, facts, applied experimentation, group collaboration,  individual and joint critical thinking and problem solving, and the natural development of understanding through experience; the hallmark of how the adolescent mind learns and thrives.

This experiential learning flies in the face of the “industrial educational model which the “modern” American educational system is still recovering from, a hang-over from an outmoded economic model.

The viability of the future American culture will be dependent on adopting much more robust experiential learning, in which all students can thrive. This model is a form of learning  that LD students are good  at, no matter if they are dyslexic, ADD/ADHD, or slower processors as well as those that struggle with social integration. And because thinking outside of the box is a much more common phenomena for the LD student, it is ideal for innovation and creativity which adds value to the non-LD student’s experience and forces then to think more creatively and broadly.

The future of the next generation and of the American culture will hang on the abilities of a majority of students (LD and non-LD) to adapt, experiment, practice success through trial, error (failure), learning how to be independent thinkers; creators who are fluid, flexible and resilient in what with be a very complex future of rapid and profound change. To pull this off, all students will need create careers founded on fluid and short-lived, project based  cohorts with special talents of thinking and application, to address specific challenges and the broader long-term dramatic issues of their time.

It is really now the time for the academic establishment to articulate a vision of the future and a means to achieve that vision through true innovative teaching and dynamic learning for all. It is doable. It just requires courage and self-less leadership from all of the communities, at all levels. This is something a real America, “the City on the Hill” should be able to do. We’ll see……

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Student independence/How to find it: The Transition to Being an Adult

I wanted to re-post this blog essay originally posted 2 years ago. It is still relevant today.

This transition by our children to the self-agency and the independence of the “adult” needs to be developed even more broadly in light of the impacts of and reactionary tendency being so violently expressed to the apparent effects of globalization. That the world and its communities are becoming more intertwined and interdependent is obvious and inevitable. To teach our children to be exclusive, myopic, complaisant in their entitled “worlds”, and isolated to the commonality of the human experience, is profoundly destructive.  

Americans more than any other national community has little excuse not to embrace this process and make it work well. We have the resources (far more than other countries) and the opportunities to be educated, liberal in our humanity, thoughtful, forward-thinking and resilient to significant changes ahead. This is how  best we can serve ourselves and the global community as well.

Today’s students (young women and men/ high school and college students) are in the historical and developmentally normal process of experiencing the profound, exciting, intimidating and confusing transition from being the dependent child morphing into the increasingly more independent and self-sufficient adult.  This transition is universal and essential in human development and as such in humanity’s success; however its length and particular form are variable and unique depending on not just the individual vagaries of each family’s circumstances and personalities, but also on the cultural, economic and social dynamics that play out in an individual’s immediate environment (e.g. where in the World one is raised). It is nonetheless the  same – Passage from Childhood to Adulthood – chronicled  extensively throughout human history.

The changes are obvious to most of us who have some perspective framed by the span of time of our  acquaintance with anyone moving into, through or out of this developmental evolution. However, trying to skin out the particular and various influences and pressures that come into play which frame the experience, length of time it takes and results of the passage (transition), are never easy to distinguish except in the most overt traumatic forms. This is the phenomena that so frequently has parents scratching their heads,  as they try to understand how their 2 children, raised ostensibly with the same set of values, models and influences, have unfolded and present themselves in dramatically different ways and notable differences. Certainly, all of us are born with different personalities (is this a function of the subtle different brewing and mixing of the parent’s DNA in each as they “cook” in utero?) and certainly there is much talk about the first  6 weeks of a newborn’s life with more or less  nurturing, that can modify a range of foundational character  traits. However, there also is no question that there are other more subtle characteristics that weave through an individual’s first 22 years (25 years?) of life that also make the difference in each individual’s evolution to adulthood.

The development of the individual is an outgrowth of millions of moments that are usually discrete but nonetheless imprint the neural pathways of the brain which like the rutted paths of the great western trails set the ingrained direction of the physical geography of the great migrations. And so then like those deep, distinct paths determine physical direction so do the increasingly deepening neural pathways that are grooved out through repeated practice determine which skills, behaviors, and thinking patterns are physically developed and integrated into the life of each individual.  The grooved pathways then evolve into characteristics unique to each individual. These grooves are etched into the foundational personality of each individual and become the structures of each person’s abilities and capabilities to develop into balanced individuals or not.

When individual students are overly “protected” from the myriad small failures by over-parenting, the individual gets no chance to practice managing and learning from the failures. They have little opportunity of converting them into successes and so learning about how to manage the vagaries of life and becoming more confident with each “manageable” challenge. Without this practice, students are disabled when the more significant failures or difficulties present themselves, which inevitably they will.

Years ago, I overheard a disturbing story about the quarterback of a very successful high school football team in a very affluent Connecticut community. He was the “golden boy” who was always stretching the limits of civil and legal behavior, and each time he got into difficulties, his parents bailed him out. His parents had always shielded him from all difficulties and so he had no idea how to manage truly on his own. Eventually other, coaches, teachers, and “boosters”  in the community also bailed him out or looked the other way; and so he had no chance to learn or develop a sense of what it was to take responsibility for his own actions. After graduating from high school, he headed off to college, full of hubris and a sense of deep entitlement. However, he had no enablers “protecting” him rom the difficulties and expectations of college. He lasted less than a semester and had a nervous breakdown. This maybe more extreme than what happens to most students who are shielded from life’s difficulties; nonetheless it is demonstrative of how over-weaning by parents can actually damage their children with the result the very opposite of what they hoped for their child.

For the parents who are brave enough to control the anxiety that comes with  raising children but be available at critical moments, and who let them grow naturally through self-managed experiences and accompanying little failures, end up  raising children to become competent individuals who have learned how to  find  their own self-agency independent of their parents. Their transition to adulthood  will be far more successful and they will live their lives full of confidence in what can be done and with a surer sense of their own independence and abilities; they grow up passing through the small and large “rites of passage” as intact, healthy and capable humans.

The character traits of self-awareness, resilience, optimism, excitement for life’s opportunities,  curiosity and courage to take risks and delve into new realms of innovation and interaction, and the social intelligence to connect and collaborate in the new employment environments of solo entrepreneurship and the self-assembled careers; these are all essential elements that schools, colleges and communities need to offer our children as elemental aspects of a good education blended into the traditional curricular disciplines.

In the complex disruptive environment of their near and distant future, an outgrowth of the inexorable, disruptive changes ahead; the Z-Generation will need to be capable, to be independent, to be brave and flexible creative adults.

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The Gap Year …..part 2 How to think about it! Be Practical, okay.

The Gap Year, ( or if taken between high school and college known as the Deferred Year) should  be a strategy for growth, not avoidance of going to college. If the decision to take a Gap Year is a way to avoid doing the college  search, application, essay writing, SAT taking, etc. it is definitely the wrong decision. It is a poor decision because it make the what after? question very nebulous and it reduces choices. It should be axiomatic that burning bridges or reducing choices is not really a good plan, unless radical change is called for. For most of us, it isn’t a legit. strategy. So, for all students who are planning on going to college in the near future, it is really important to go through the college applying gauntlet.

Experiencing the gauntlet’s edge, you have tools and insight you didn’t have before that you can use to your benefit; It helps answer the “what next” question of what can happen after your Gap Year.   You have a college to go to and that gives you order and structure and hopefully a great opportunity. By this, I mean that if you have been accepted and put a deposit down giving you a place at a particular college in the Fall you though as “your college”  in the midst of the turmoil of the college season,  you have a direction and a place to go after your Gap Year, and that is a good thing.  It also has made familiar what it takes to apply and get accepted to a particular college – and that can come in handy in the future. It also helps answer and help you come to grips with a question that may come up during your Gap Year, that is, is it the right college for you, on reflection?  It can offer a valuable mirror against which to make future decisions that may come up.   That is, if you discover that your interests and expectations have changed during your Gap Year, you have a gauge against which you can search for other, more appropriate colleges that you now know may well be a better fit.  Not many students I work with on their Gap Year, choose to matriculate elsewhere, but on 2 occasions,  students learned so much more about what they were capable of managing and why they truly were interested in, that they applied to other colleges for more suitable, and based on their new-found passion and dramatic increase in personal interest driven by their own self-agency, they were accepted; much better placements and even better, placements that they chose and not those given or expected of them. There is power in that.

There is no question that students who grow during their Gap Year (and most do if the year is designed properly), expanding their self-knowledge and finding a deeper appreciation for their world and its possibilities, go to college with a profound commitment to excel and the resilience and drive to have successful, experiences with greater balance and a clearer vision of the future. Knowing that college is an active, engaging span of time, they are far more apt to use their time well to set up a post college life and career that matches their tone, abilities and options for success, no matter what they determine  “success ” for them is.

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The Great Thing about a Gap Year….

After being in schools for 14+ years (this includes kindergarden/ It could be longer if the pre-school schooling starts before 4 years old) it makes incredible sense to stop being in school and actually take a breather, to make sense of the world outside of school BEFORE committing to another 4 years of college. I mean, how does anyone have a clue about the realities of life and the limitlessness of thought and cultural variety unless you experience it at a more intimate level and be responsible for your own actions in that real world; independent of parents, or other figures of authority? To learn by doing, refreshing your mind by seeing and understanding the world in it’s glory and complexity – differently through new eyes  (yours or through association with others you meet on your Gap Year travels) can only be good before sinking your teeth into an intense academic study and socio-relational confluences of the liberal arts college and then of course career(s).

Success and leadership in life depend on insight, perspective, social maturity, curiosity,  resilience and so many other “soft skills”  that can be brought to bare in managing the challenges and opportunities life presents. How can one actually do this well, at a higher level, without having lived a bit independently, as a self-agent, before stepping into what should be the intellectually challenging world of college? How much more energy, excitement and intellectual purpose can be injected into the the wonders of the college experience if  the charge from a Gap Year is applied – giving education, intellectual curiosity, and the rationale for schooling a context and purpose. And the GapYear helps to imbue an individual with greater clarity of direction, helps answer the question, Why am I going to college and what does it have to do with anything that is important. If any population need too have that question answered, it is the graduation high school senior who is still in the throes of late adolescence and needs the concrete connection to be tangible and immediate.

The Gap Year is a partial counter to the pedantry and constriction of the traditional academic track. It refreshes and invigorates and more effectively prepares students to learn to manage their lives before college (than the typical school), and helps to flush the standardized silliness of our outmoded and obsolete 19th Century educational models; giving meaning and purpose and offering a chance for students to become self-directed, capable, thoughtful leaders who American society so dearly needs. A society that has become an increasingly complex, dysfunctional society; a less democratic and less courteous, less mutually-supportive culture.

Don’t be afraid of the Gap Year; embrace it and make it be one of the life-changing and formative times in your life.


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The Student Compass Website

The Student Compass Website – The Expanded Student Compass Website link can be found in the Blogroll in the right hand column. The Website  is a fairly comprehensive  elaboration of the Student Compass philosophy, mission, programs and intentions. Because the work of The Student Compass is complex and multi-year it is quite different than other student based support services because it addresses the transitions that students are confronted with as they gradually flow into adulthood developing cognitively and emotionally from adolescents into vested adults. The general social expectation is that this happens during the 4 years of college and at the end of that post-secondary experience, out pops an adult ready and able to engage the world. Nothing can be farther from the truth, especially in the contemporary society of  todays’ America. The Student Compass is fully aware that students struggle to figure out how to manage their lives and create realistic and appropriate goals that match their tone, temperament and abilities, potential and real. That is why we mentor students. We don’t tell students what they should do, we don’t “counsel” or “guide”. But rather we  help students think about themselves, their futures, the realities of  their changing world and practice developing a plan (s) that they design for themselves so they can have a better look at what they need to do to get to their future. And so what we do is work with students on planning for their open lives, and developing greater independence and “self-agency”, taking responsibility for their futures so they can be happy, productive and capable individuals, contributing to their community, country and world.

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