Apply to a good college. Get accepted into your top choice. Graduate from high school. Navigate through architecture design school without “having a mid-life crisis”. Graduate in 4 years. Get an internship in architecture. Get married. Get your masters so that you can practice architecture. Complete a research project. Start a PhD. Have your first child. Finish a PhD. Get a post-doc. Have your second child. Get a “big boy” job. From kindergarten until (finally) being hired for my “big boy” job, I thought life was about jumping through the next hoop. So, what do you do when there is no hoops left for you to jump through?
I start at the beginning and our education system. I may not be placing the blame in the right place but let me explain. At an early age I figured it out. I understood how to get good grades – showing up was 80% and even though I wasn’t the smartest kid in the class I knew I could out work just about anyone in the classroom. The teachers prescribed life through the next assignment, the next grade, and the next test. I am guilty of wanting the answer to a math problem without understanding my dad’s explanation of the mechanics behind the calculation. Lately, I have read or heard others in the Silicon Valley tech scene talk about how poorly our education system has trained the next generation – trained them to take tests instead of asking questions, trained them to memorize instead of decomposing and recombining the information to create real knowledge, and trained them consume instead of make. I am a product of that system and the hoop jumping mindset plagues me today.
I graduated at the top of my high school class but looking back I knew how to check the box not how to learn. Even now, my desire to know the latest and greatest methodologies or the latest design and technology trends may from the outside appear to be my preferred learning method. However, I flood myself with facts and figures like I’m cramming for the LSAT and it has made it hard for me to retain the material. I’ve come to this realization in the last two months while doing daily writing and the needed introspection has done wonders. So, what have I started to do when I realized that there are no more hoops left to jump through?
- Accept that there are no more hoops to jump through – freeing yet terrifying.
- Take the time to understand where you’ve come from and where you are. Ask yourself questions – What do you want to learn? How do you learn best?
- Come up with a long term vision for who you want to be, what you want to be doing, where you want to do it, and how you want to do it.
- Use a framework to help you measure your progress. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) is a good place to start.
- Learn continuously within constraints so you’re not absorbed by paralysis by analysis. Use the SMART framework as your guide.
- Experiment. Find ways to apply what you learned in your everyday life.
- Share with and teach others.
As someone who has always been driven by the next assignment, next grade, next achievement, I can tell you that this realization was an a-ha moment for me. I’m still early in the process and despite my understanding for the process it’s easy to find myself slinking back into that old mindset. Yet, I’m excited for the future and where this new way to learn can take me. So, what do you do when there is no hoops left for you to jump through?