Paraphrased quote from Matthew Bannick @ Omidyar who came to speak at one of our classes last fall.
I have two thoughts I wanted to discuss in this post. Now, I know for post / blog / whatever popularity, one needs to segment these thoughts out in different posts. But, as I remind myself over and over again, this is not a “blog for popularity” :P
First – when talking about adult re-education, there’s still, frankly, an unwarranted amount of focus on content. Guys. It’s 2016. There’s the internet and even if there isn’t the internet, there’s the public library, community college, encyclopedias…
The issue hasn’t been content for a long time. The issue is confidence, specifically the confidence that one can learn new things from scratch. As one gets older, the last time this activity happened – which for a lot of people, lamentably, is school – gets further and further away and, much like learning to ride a bike and then not doing it for a decade, one starts to fear getting back on.
Similarly to the analogy, though, it’s very hard to forget how to ride the bike. The brain doesn’t forget to learn. In fact, even for people who don’t do it deliberately, the brain is learning every day. But one forgets that one has the capacity.
How to address this scalably rather than through social services? Let’s discuss.
Second – there’s an Ender’s Game concept (the quote eludes me) that has stuck out in my memory since 8th grade – “No, you don’t understand. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist.”
It’s essentially that if you decide to fight, which you should decide to do very seldomly, then you must decide to indisputably win. In the case of Ender’s Game, you must kill. Otherwise, the thing which you fight will come back at you, more vehemently each time.
I realized on the way to work one day that the same concept applies to ideas. The most extreme example is revolution, as we saw in Turkey recently. If you don’t kill the thought of revolution / coups the first time, you allow it to hide for now and resurface, stronger and more confident about your relative weakness.
I thought of this, though, more in the context of the mundane, specifically about matters of disagreement at work. Now, I think this is quite a different category and more often than not, you need to listen and sometimes even fully adopt the other person’s ideas if they are better than yours. I have no problem with this. However, if you decide to fight hard because you know your idea is right, it is almost always more preferable to win the argument in one fell swoop. Because ideas, once only half killed, come back stronger than before. They fester and spawn doubt that they then feed off. That doubt needs to be eradicated before it makes the idea so strong that you have to fight the fight all over again, this time an even harder fight.