Archive | August, 2010
August 27, 2010

Girl Power

“The most powerful force of change on the planet is a girl.”

When a friend shared this Nike Foundation video on Facebook recently, I DARE YOU , I watched it and wept.   As parents, we’re raising the little girls who will change the world, and the boys who will marry them.  We’re their custodians, holding their hands as they cross into a 21st century world so very different — and quite likely so very much better — than the 20th century reality that brought them here.  We sell them short to simply teach them what we learned, because in their world, they hold power — and face challenges — that we could never have imagined.

In its recent article,  Women Will Rule the World, Newsweek confirmed the age-old saying that women control the purse strings.  Literally.  First in the US and many European countries, then more recently in the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India & China) and in other pockets of the planet, the rapid rise of female economic power is staggering and transformative.

Maddy Dychtwald boils it down to compelling, hard numbers in her book, Influence, released a few months ago.  “American women are responsible for 83% of all consumer purchases; they hold 89% of US bank accounts, 51% of all personal wealth, and are worth more than $5 trillion in consumer spending power — larger than the entire Japanese economy.  On a global level, women are the biggest emerging market in the history of the planet — more than twice the size of India and China combined.”

Closely linked to this economic power, of course, is education.  The Women’s Learning Partnership estimates that for every year beyond fourth grade girls attend school, a country’s wages rise by 20%. Stop and think about that for a moment.  Twenty percent for each year of education after 4th grade!

The trickle-down of this economic power is where it gets really good.  With women controlling the purse strings, what funding areas become more critical?  Does defense spending share top billing with childcare, healthcare and education?  Does quality of life  compete with GDP?  Does the little nation of Bhutan, with it’s commitment to “gross national happiness” (GNH) show the rest of the world how to really succeed?

Chip Conley, the hotel entrepreneur from San Francisco, weaves it all together quite nicely in his TED presentation, Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile.  He points back to one of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 speeches, where he opines that we count the wrong stuff.  Our GDP counts air pollution, redwoods destruction, and nuclear warheads, but doesn’t count health of our kids, our quality of education, or the intelligence of our public debate.  Perhaps it’s time for a new way to count, he suggested.  Conley goes on to remind us that, prior to the young king of Bhutan suggesting GNH as a national metric, the last world leader to invoke “happiness” as a viable government measure was Thomas Jefferson, in that bold, pesky Declaration of Independence.

With new metrics to measure life’s intangibles, coupled with the transformative power of women stepping to the economic plate, the 21st century offers hope, promise and possibility so different from it’s 20th century cousin.  Imagine a world where our daughters  realize their aspirations, and our sons don’t feel compelled to shoulder the economic burden alone. Imagine their world, where going into the world to do “good” is on equal footing with doing “well.”

Those of us with kids in college, we’re the women who fought the mommy wars.  To work or not to work.  What was best for us, our families, and of course, our children?   As with so many things, our competitive juices flowed, and a tangible, visceral struggle ensued to determine which mommy team was better.  Could we really raise our kids and bring home the bacon?  Were stay-at-home moms sending the best message to their young daughters about their potential, their place in the world?  And single, working moms?  Just the thought led to head shaking and furrowed brows from all fronts.  If you’re nodding, it’s because you remember the heated debates, countless magazine copy, and endless talking heads, the “experts” on the topic.  (If you’re nodding, it also means you remember the big hair and those awful “business suits” we wore.  But that’s another post for another time.)

Maybe its just me, but it seems we’ve moved on, put that issue behind us and concluded — as our moms before us and women throughout history — that as women, we can and will do what’s best for our families, whatever that may be.

And in doing that, we make the world a better place.

August 17, 2010

Unplugging and Making Time to Nap

New York Times, “Outdoors & Out of Reach: Studying the Brain”

Interesting piece in yesterday’s New York Times, when several noted neuroscientists are pulled from their academic worlds and spend a week rafting the San Juan River in southern Utah, out in the wildnerness, where cell phones and wi-fi simply don’t work.

Over the course of the week, they begin to tap into something those of us who travel already intuitively understand:  Unplug.  Simplify. Relax.  Give yourself permission to think, contemplate, read, nap, and even do nothing at all.  As most long-term travelers will attest, the restorative power of unplugging is tremendous.  It’s putting down the phone, unplugging the computer, and giving up our need to multitask that’s the tough hill to climb.

Unplugging.  Minimizing the multi-tasking.  Taking time to simply think.  And maybe even taking an occasional nap.

Kicking into our official RoadSchool year in the next few days, these are my new goals.  It’s bringing home what we learn on the road and making it part of the fabric of our lives.  So obvious, yet, so tricky.  And so, so important.

To a new school year and new beginnings!

August 15, 2010

CHILDISHNESS . . . A FRESH PERSPECTIVE

Adora Svitak on TED

As schools start gearing up, school supplies are organzied and arranged, and shiny new books line the shelves, take a moment to hear about the inspiration of childishness, from child prodigy Adora Svitak.  This 12 year old is on to something — reciprocal teaching and the power of childish inspiration.  Enjoy!

August 15, 2010

PHONES IN THE TOILET — HOW’D THAT HAPPEN?

Running through my daily internet routine a few days ago — World Hum , BootsnAll , email, CNN and MSNBC for news, and of course, Facebook — I smiled and replied quickly when I read my friend had dropped her phone in the toilet, losing all her contacts.  “Please email me your info right away!” she wrote, re-establishing her social network platform to stay connected, despite the toilet mishap.  (Sure . . . she should’ve had it synced or backed-up or something, thus avoiding the entire crisis all together, but that’s another entry.)

What was striking about the moment was that it wasn’t particularly striking.  It wasn’t for a few days, until suddenly, I thought, “What the heck?  Why do we take our cell phones into the bathroom with us?”

Oh, stop feigning surprise.  You know you’ve done it too.  We just don’t like to admit it.  Quick email check or text message.  Update Facebook.  Maybe a couple of moves on a favorite game.  Or just check the headlines.   Confirming this phenomenon, a client recently confessed how she giggled when sending a text message to her brother from the bathroom stall, testing out that new Iphone, a treasured prize from her 60th birthday loot.  And of course, anyone connected with teenagers and 20-somethings will confirm that generation actually sleeps with their phones, ensuring a pithy reply to any late night text message or email.  It’s cultural, it seems, spanning generations and political differences.  Red states, blue states?  Bring it on.  We’ve got our phones.

With time to fill, the ubiquitous cell phone becomes the gadget through which we fill it.  And of course, it’s not just in the bathroom.  It’s everywhere.  Standing in line at the supermarket, in the back of a cab headed to the airport, at a stoplight, waiting for a movie to start, between courses at a restaurant, even those quiet moments in conversation — quick snatch of data before returning to human interaction.  Seems it’s the 21st century equivalent of looking over the shoulder of your cocktail party companion, engaged in this conversation but looking for someone or something better over by the shrimp tray.

While traveling alone recently, I decided to play a game with myself.   Forego the phone to kill time, choosing instead to look up, look around, maybe even converse everytime I had that urge to pull out the phone.  It wasn’t as easy as you think.  The bathroom time went first.  That wasn’t too tough . . . it’s always seemed a bit silly and forbidden, so I think I was quietly relieved to leave it safely tucked in my purse.  But the cab ride?  That was a different story.  Two cab rides, actually, one from JFK into the city, then again a few days later, an early morning dart to LaGuardia.  Then an afternoon brunch in a midtown NYC cafe.  Now that’s a challenge.  Alone.  Food.  Public place.  And no phone!  Later, sitting in a Broadway theatre, lights still up, waiting for the show to begin.

Nervously twitching in each situation, the phone was abandoned (but of course, still tucked in my purse.  In case of emergency, you know.)  At brunch and at the theatre, I ended up in terrific conversation with NYC locals, just out enjoying the city.  We chatted, the old fashioned way, about nothing particular yet things interesting and worth the time.  From the cab’s back seat from JFK, I had a rather interesting tug-o-war with the driver about the appropriate tip, given my choice to pay by credit card.  (We didn’t agree, but he prevailed.  He knew where I was staying.)    Heading to LaGuardia at sunrise, I sat back and marveled at the city I’ve missed more than I knew.  I was actually reflective.  Try doing that with the phone in hand!

Of course I’d love to report that now back home, I’ve traded my beloved Iphone for a Moleskin journal, thoughtful writing having replaced the mindless phone finger dance.  But no.  It’s still firmly attached, my constant companion.   I’ve made progress though.  It’s decidedly off limits in the bathroom now, partially because I simply dread living with myself should it go for an unintended swim.  (Think of my poor friend, who while anonymous, is now the focus of this blog post.)   And I’ve enjoyed several outings with the kids — beach burgers at Kalapawai today, Yogurt Mama a few days back — and in both cases, we talked.  Just talked, about whatever came up.   Including what we saw in the world around us, outside the window, down at the beach, over at the next picnic table.  Progress.  And I like where it’s headed.

Gotta go.  Just heard that familiar beep.  Think I’ve got a new Facebook message.

August 9, 2010

College Education in the 21st Century

“Is it Worth It to Go To College?” from MSNBC

A 21st century perspective on the cost of education and the real world realities for college graduates.  Are college loans the next financial crisis on the horizon?  Interesting perspective.

Sir Ken Robinson, one of my favorite TED speakers, talks about tapping into the creativity and passion of kids, then supporting them as they follow that passion into their college and professional training.

At the Techonomy Conference in Lake Tahoe late last week, Bill Gates shared a similar perspective, saying that “Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.” Bill Gates at Techonomy on Education

Perhaps we’re at the front end of a trend here, where more is not better, and most expensive is not best.  Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

Check out Robinson’s forward-thinking perspective on TED or on his own website.  Good stuff!  Sir Ken Robinson on Education