Tag Archives: social-emotional learning

Google’s Ginormous (Non-technical!) Breakthrough

The Google Epiphany has nothing to do with algorithms or search engine optimization.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded (Google) on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. (see end: Wa-Po source)

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998.  Project Oxygen and Project Aristotle were the result.

“The seven top characteristics of success at Google are soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” (Project Oxygen report)

“Project Aristotle, a study released by Google (spring 2017), further supports the importance of soft skills even in high-tech environments. Project Aristotle analyzes data on inventive and productive teams.” Findings: “…the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.”

Google people are masters at collecting and analyzing data and translating it into meaningful information. We’re so used to command and control, being shoved in a box, fear of failure…all disengaging and counter-productive…that it’s no surprise the top impact on team effectiveness was  psychological safety: “…a group culture that Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’ Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up…It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.” (NYT source)

Project Aristotle has significant intersects with mainstream engagement theory. So all this is nothing new, no big secret. But how do you “do” psychological safety? Another way of saying it: what helps people feel comfortable with fully engaging? These Universal Engagers are a few proven “hows”.

We’ve known it for some time, but are so painfully slow to embrace the obvious. Unless you’re totally on your own or are work-at-home you’d best be good with people and be well adjusted socially and emotionally.  Google stumbled across the keys to organizations, effective teams and people leadership. The keys are standard practice non-secrets. What IS incredible is that a tech giant had this voluntary epiphany that soft stuff is at least as critical as tech skills!

Google is a tech giant, so Project Aristotle’s findings are likely to be relevant to the tech industry overall. Still, Education continues its obsession with filling the STEM hard skills pipeline. There’s still little attention given to social-emotional development, interpersonal skills, stuff for whole-life survival. Education needs to catch up in a hurry, and it wouldn’t hurt to partner with its customers in fully defining needs and meeting them. Our productivity and global competitiveness is at stake, as is quality of life and, even more importantly, our physical and emotional well-being, our love of being happy with our lives.

It’s A Man’s World (NOT!) Silicon Valley has been under fire for a grossly uneven gender playing field and recently, both covert and more subtle gender-based harassment and discrimination (search for “silicon valley good old boy culture” and look around). Remedy: a booster shot of decency in the form of social-emotional development…equal inclusion, understanding, respect, acceptance, dignity for all.

The Google Epiphany alone shouldn’t trigger a mad rush into a significant direction shift in education. But Project Aristotle isn’t the first or the only study to indicate the significance of soft stuff. From the Wa-Po article: Google’s studies concur with others trying to understand the secret of a great future employee. A recent survey of 260 employers …which includes both small firms and behemoths like Chevron and IBM, ranks communication skills in the top three most-sought after qualities by job recruiters. They prize an ability to communicate with one’s workers and an aptitude for conveying the company’s product and mission outside the organization…

STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone, as Steve Jobs famously insisted, is not enough. We desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational.

We cannot dump STEM entirely because we need 21st century technical skills to compete. But we can do better at balancing hard and soft. When should young people as potential employees be trained on specific, necessary hard skills? Each company / situation / position has unique needs and skills, and Education cannot possibly hit so many targets. Why not focus on prepping students to succeed in life in general, to cope with what they will face emotionally and on the job, to be able to adapt and quickly pick up on the specific skills they will need to be a high contributor…but only after the skill gaps are more clearly understood. Hire for the intangibles: potential, the right attitude, soft stuff mastery.

What’s at Stake, Really? From Social Science Fiction

Too many young people suffer irreversible long-term harm, even commit suicide because of pressures they can’t handle. Key triggers: education demands, bullying, growing up in a vacuum. Too many adults are in pain too, suffering from isolation, lack of purpose, workplace pressures, big kid bullying a.k.a harassment.

     Stress, anxiety, formally diagnosed mental / emotional illnesses, self-harm, suicide are all increasing across all ages. Hypothesis: we’ve turned our backs on the importance of treating each other like human beings, and we’re far too often killing ourselves and each other. We’ve devalued our humanity.

Envision a company using its considerable influence to help provide a stabilizing force in the local community. Consider the impact on social issues if employees feel a sense of community, a purpose larger than “me”, an island of safety and sanity in the midst of the turbulence of their lives.

That community happens to be the company’s current and future talent pool. A forward-thinking company that champions the social-emotional well being of its host community would realize huge bottom line improvements. Not a hunch, it’s been validated over and over. Now, what if shared values were embraced throughout the community? All-community stakeholder alignment would exponentially boost isolated company impact. Conclusion: a broad collaboration to impact the greater good would boost our well-being, the social condition, and our economic prosperity.

Epiphany: capitalism’s Job One isn’t economic prosperity, competitive advantage or global market superiority—all outcomes—but to impact the human condition. People-first is a high-return endeavor that assures sustainable social-economic success and personal well-being.


What S-E material should be used, and who will lead the charge? Good questions! There’s already an overabundance of material, but spotty half-hearted efforts. I’m concerned with what I’ve seen of social-emotional learning in education, and I’m also concerned with how a revitalized initiative would be handled. This is not a condemnation of education, just observations of the current state:

  •  Academia is not capable of real-time responsiveness to market needs for S-E or any other subject matter;
  •  No polite way to say it: educators can be a closed and protective group. As a result academia tends to suffer from inbred thinking, country clubbing, not-invented-here;
  •  Lack of funding is a huge constraint: no staff, no resources to give the necessary level of attention to soft stuff. Academic demands are stifling—educators’ hands are tied;
  •  S-E is more than a dinner garnish, it must be recognized as a main course;
  • Real-world practitioners are best suited to design and co-deliver real-world subjects. Even though the help should be warmly welcomed, Education would likely not embrace outsider meddling and would likely push back.

Education isn’t market or needs-driven, is slow to respond demanding validation, research, papered educator / expert design, academic rigor. How to sneak the Trojan Horse past the guards at the gate?

Resolution? We’ve missed the real-world skills target. Kids need much more in the social-emotional development a.k.a soft skills department. Employers have a vested interest, and we’d be improving the chances of kids having a much more fulfilling life. Proposed: don’t call it social-emotional development. Work around the associated baggage and NVA connotations by providing real-world prep skills. As such, it only makes sense for the future employers to step up to the plate and pull their weight.

Too Much of a Good Thing. Our STEM obsession is counter-productive and is potentially detrimental to young people who are herded into STEM education and careers regardless of their talents, passions and interests. We can do so much better for them, for ourselves, for the world.

No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed. Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers. What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.” (from the Wa-Po article)


The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students   Washington Post December 2017, by Valerie Strauss

What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team  by Charles Duhigg Feb. 25, 2016

In Search of Lost Mojo: The Series   (lots of embedded links)


Chillin’–A Personal Well-being Primer

Hey Activists….saving the world starts with me dropping one pebble at a time into one pond at a time.

Chillin’ objective: provide a people-friendly, WIIFM-intensive, non-threatening introduction to scientifically validated, self-care disciplines. It’s not weird old hippie stuff, not excruciatingly painful yoga, not mantra-chanting incense-burning meditation, not falling into a self-induced trance from candle-gazing. All of that is too strange for most to even think about trying. But most people don’t realize the damage done by physical and emotional pressures they may not even be aware of. Just as most don’t realize the incredible benefits of actively managing their mental-emotional and physical well-being, and don’t know how easy it can be.

What if there was a way to hit a reset button, neutralizing emotional and physical stressors that can turn your brain to jell-o and can even kill you, quickly or slow but sure?  Simple ways to “chill” your body and mind anytime anywhere without anyone knowing, using scientifically validated techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years? Would you give it a shot?

I’m no guru, but I have managed to learn how to handle things pretty well most of the time.

Four Easy Essentials

“Mindfulness” is the airy-fairy mystical-sounding rage, but it’s nothing more than being fully aware of something and staying focused on that one thing. Hit File Delete for all the other noise.

It takes little time to practice and learn four essentials that work together: Focus, Breathing, Posture, Routine. Kids easily embrace Chillin’, but most adults have a lot of catching up to do and bad habits to unlearn. It’s OK to ease into it, you can learn the mechanics one at a time. Just don’t lose interest if magical results are not immediate.

(Essential One) Focus–Mental Discipline. An undisciplined mind can be a dictator–chaotic, unruly, a bb in a boxcar. Find a focusing aid, ONE thing to direct your thoughts at: the right music (a couple of examples follow) a physical object, or one thought in particular. My favorite easy Chill routine is the right music in the background while staring into a candle flame, focusing on just the flame, then adding a little mindful breathing. Five minutes can do wonders.

It helps for starters if you’re in the right environment with few distractions, but later you’ll be able to focus enough to block out the distractions around you anytime, anywhere. Just don’t chill so much you snooze in a board meeting.

(Essential Two) Breathing. You know how to breathe already but it’s a little different when you’re in Chill mode. First, focus on every breath—in through your nose, out through your mouth. Use your mental discipline to focus on speed and depth. Park your mind on nothing but breathing…it’s your first focal point! Slow, controlled deep, breaths. It will eventually become second nature.

Most people think their chests should puff way out when they’re deep breathing. Aim lower! With your hand on your diaphragm—middle of your chest just under your breast bone, above your tummy—slowly fill your lungs to maximum capacity. As you breathe in you should feel your stomach push out (no worries…it will go back down!). Deep breathing and singing from the diaphragm is used by accomplished singers because they get more power and control and are able to sing longer phrases. I’m not “accomplished” but I’ve been told by real pros that it works.

(Essential Three) Posture. Your spine is the superhighway for your nervous system and all of your energy flow. I can testify–the spine is critical.

Except for a (really) old football injury, the only back problem I’ve ever had was a few years ago, a nagging muscle issue. The chiropractor probed each vertebrae on both sides of my spine. He finally pressed on one wing and my right arm went totally dead. My back / muscle issue was rooted in the nerve flow regulated by one specific vertebrae wing. Easy fix.

You can get started right now. Lousy posture must be fashionable-quick check: how’s yours right now? Wherever / whenever you are sitting or standing, just straighten your spine! Add a little arms-up stretch and twist while you’re at it. If you’re like most you’re all hunched over and tensed up, and just that minimal movement will pop a few bones. It’s not just an old age thing.

A 10-minute daily yoga routine called The Five Tibetans is a simple stretching sequence that flexes and aligns the spine in the right order. Key words: stretch, flex, align, routine. Stay tuned.

(Essential Four) Routine, First Cousin to Discipline. An old football coach said “practice the way you want to play, because you play the way you practice.” Very zen for a jock in the 70’s but it holds true for sports, music, any hobby, relationships, anything.

Your first self-care session

Discipline / Focus, Breathing and Posture are all in play. This should quickly become a Routine for you. It won’t take long to learn or to realize immediate payback. You can do it any anytime anywhere, without anyone even knowing. If I have a particularly crazy group of students, I’ll do it. If my blood pressure is too high at the doctor’s I say “give me a couple minutes”. They come back, re-do my BP, it’s dropped 20 points. So here’s what you do….

Posture, alignment. Sit in a comfortable chair with your back straight, feet on the ground, thighs parallel to the ground. Rest your hands palm-down on your thighs. Option: cross-legged on the floor if you can. It worked for the Indians, full-blown lotus not required. It kills my ankles so, no. But your spine MUST be straight—that superhighway thing!

Control your breathing. Take slow and deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Check your diaphragm, it should be moving.

Focus. Close your eyes, focus on every breath—the changing sound of the nose>mouth in>out cycle, how the air feels coming in and going out, your stomach’s movement. Block out thoughts about anything else. Blocking may be rough at first—our minds are power-hungry dictators.

Expand your focus as you get more adept at this kind of breathing, graduating to “whole-body relaxation”. Become fully aware of your body one part at a time. Consciously relax that part. Focus on nothing but that part and how it feels as you fully relax it. On to another part, repeat.

Option to closing your eyes: use a specific focusing object to rest your eyes on. Don’t over-analyze the object, just rest your gaze on it and stay there. Let the object melt away, let your eyes glaze over. (it’s called spacing out, like most men I can do this in a heartbeat). Candle flame works great, but it’s a little awkward to light a candle in a high school classroom.


BONUS environmental elements: especially when you’re starting out, if you can choose your location a quiet and secluded, solitary place is ideal. Mood lighting (low) helps too.

Extra-extra bonus: music or white noise helps focus and minimizes noise distractions. Baroque = good. Rap and metal = bad. Anything with lyrics is distracting. Stay tuned for Chillin’ Music.

Let’s Talk a Little Yoga (very little)…The Five Tibetans

How scary is yoga? You’ve heard all about your kundalini and seen the workout vids, right? For most, “kundalini” is some kind of exotic liqueur. I’m 63. I used to be in good shape, athletic, active. But fitness hasn’t been high on my priority list for over a decade. I’ve never followed an exercise regimen of any kind, not even regularly walking. I have never ever obsessed over what I eat, just within reason…a heart attack tends to bring you down to earth. I guess I’m lucky. Maybe stupid. My no-exercise excuse besides no time: I hadn’t found the right routine for me.

I’ve always refused to consider contorting myself to the point of wondering whether I can untie my limbs from the crazy positions those yogis get into. And the Five Tibetans is traditional yoga. But I can easily do this routine. It’s a ten-minute sequence, longer only if you really get into it. But it will work wonders, and it’s scientifically validated to boost physical and emotional well-being. Confession: I need more discipline here!

Read the tutorial and get started easing into things now–linked above.


Music Therapy

The science of music therapy is amazing, its broad benefits are impressive and well-validated. It’s so fascinating that it’s tough just to focus on the relaxation aspect, but here goes.

Neuroscientists Discover a Song That Reduces Anxiety By 65 Percent. Excerpts:

Researchers at Mindlab International in the U.K. wanted to know what kind of music induces the greatest state of relaxation. The study involved having participants try to solve difficult puzzles — which inherently triggered a certain degree of stress — while connected to sensors. At the same time, participants listened to a range of songs as researchers measured their brain activity, heart rate, blood pressure and rate of breathing.

They found one song, “Weightless”, resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.

Interestingly, the song was specifically designed to induce this highly relaxed state. Created by Marconi Union, the musicians teamed up with sound therapists to carefully arrange harmonies, rhythms and bass lines, which in turn slow a listener’s heart rate and blood pressure, while also lowering stress hormones like cortisol.

DOUBLE-DIPPER APPLICATION. Some people need structure or it’s not a “real” song. But sound of any kind is magical. Watch and listen in a quiet and soothing environment, staying focused on the sounds and graphics. And while you’re at it, do your controlled breathing. They’re meant to work together. Weightless, 8min version 

That’s it for now. If you like what you see or have your own favorite routine, leave a response or drop a line craig.althof@gmail.com Please remember…the whole point is to make this as non-intimidating and accessible to regular people as possible. No voodoo, no dead language incantations, no over-the-top spirituality. Just some everyday Chill.

Live Long and Prosper-A Vulcan History Lesson

Logic is the cement of our civilization, with which we ascend from chaos using reason as our guide.” – T’Plana-Hath, Matron of Vulcan Philosophy

Vulcan history is a long journey from ancient civil wars that nearly destroyed Vulcan, to their embracing of logic through the teachings of Surak. Why did Spock’s home planet Vulcan turn its back on emotions in deference to logic?

Vulcans were once barbaric, war-like and “nearly killing themselves off with their own passions“. As half-human Spock put it “Vulcan, like Earth, had its aggressive, colonizing period; savage even by Earth standards. There was a time in the past when we were an extremely violent race. We nearly destroyed ourselves. Paranoia and homicidal rage were common.” A small group of early Vulcans, reported to be liberals, began to mentally train themselves to suppress their emotions.

None too soon. Vulcan was tearing itself apart. Rampant emotions and a hostile warrior culture led to many widespread wars using terrible weapons like atomic bombs and the Stone of Gol. But the philosopher Surak made a radical proposition: lead a life governed by logic rather than emotion. His teachings showed Vulcans a path towards peace and they quickly spread. Spock reflected on the shift to logic: “We were once wildly emotional, committed to irrationally opposing points of view, leading, of course, to death and destruction. Only the discipline of logic saved my planet from extinction.

Vulcans are not natural paragons of emotionless logic. They are actually far too emotional for their own good. Their natural disposition is quite earthly human: erratic, volatile and quick to anger. So they go to great lengths to suppress their natural feelings with disciplined mind control. The Vulcan embracing of logic includes an iron discipline about feelings – an almost Buddhist extermination of the ego, freeing the person from illogical emotional impulses.

Spock was only half-Vulcan, the offspring of a human schoolteacher and a Vulcan father. This created a deep, ongoing and powerful conflict between logic and emotion, described by Earth counterpart Leonard Nimoy as … “struggling to maintain a Vulcan attitude, a Vulcan philosophical posture and a Vulcan logic, opposing what was fighting him internally, which was human emotion.”

Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human. (Kirk’s eulogy for Spock)

The Vulcan culture survived and thrived. End of history lesson.

(Two sources for Vulcan history: http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Vulcan_history  and http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/the-vulcan-way-how-to-live-long-and-prosper-1672660.html

Is There a Lesson?

Earth is embroiled in civilization-threatening conflict. The dark side of our emotional human nature is becoming more and more dominant with greed, power-grabbing, corruption, indifference to others, brutal killings, senseless wars that are somehow always logically or morally justified.

But the Vulcan civilization survived a similar crisis and thrived. What can we learn from our distant homo sapiens cousins? Must we also banish emotions in deference to logic?

Earth’s humans face a dual threat: 1) rampant emotions and whacked out values fueling phobias and paranoia, hatred, bigotry, “me first” nationalism; and 2) blunt-force logic: cold, calculating, it’s-only-business, inhuman disregard for others in deference to profit, possessions  and power.

There’s a significant difference between Earth’s and Vulcan’s strain of homo sapiens. Our issue is more complex than Vulcans faced. Earth’s science community has determined that social-emotional attributes are what makes Earth humans human. Our emotional, impulsive, intuitive side is our redeeming quality, but it may also become our downfall.

Human emotion is as essential to our survival as the physical environment. We thrive on intangibles like sense of purpose, living by our values, healthy personal relationships, belonging / being part of a strong community. As social well-being has been found to intertwine with physical well-being these are critical to sustaining the species. It’s also been verified that social-emotional well-being drives achievement and success, as well as physical health and longevity.

But there’s a down side to strong emotions rooted in the way the brain and body interact.

Emotional input or negative experiences trigger a highly sensitized involuntary fear response that is so strong it can block out logical thought. These negative external stimuli can trigger brain trauma which causes the involuntary reactions due to our “fight or flee” instinct.  A traumatized brain can be a tired, hungry, worried, rejected, or detached brain which causes a person to have feelings of isolation, worry, angst, and fear.

When a threat, either real or perceived, is felt the brain and body both prioritize survival. Both go through changes to enable rapid scanning for physical warning signs and emotional signals of unsafe conditions.  We react to signals physiologically, our irritated limbic system increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration with an excessive secretion of stimuli—cortisol and adrenaline—pumping through our bodies.

We’ve long known about the potential physical damage from stress responses. Chronic activation of this fear response can damage parts of the brain as well as the body due to elevated stress levels. While humans are naturally social creatures that thrive on and crave social connection and attachment to others, if we encounter physical or emotional danger problem solving, reflection, and emotional regulation are compromised and diminished.

(Brain theory information is from Brains in Pain Cannot Learn! )

So, What’s a Human To Do?

For humans, our emotions are a good thing. We cannot survive without them. But an over-leveraged strength can become a weakness. So, how do we embrace our emotional strengths while keeping them in check? Mindfulness and meditation, even at a very basic level, can do wonders. So can rediscovering our true selves (purpose values, norms, belonging…). But body and mind are one system. So don’t forget the bean sprouts. And sensible exercise too. It’s not all esoteric pixie dust.

Humanity’s struggle to harness our emotions is a matter of species survival. Thankfully, there is a broad and potentially powerful awakening underway. Live long and prosper ….indeed! As Spock would exclaim, with one pointed eyebrow raised for added emphasis…. “Fascinating!”

Reinventing Sesame Street (!!!)

I heard an interview on National Public Radio over the weekend–Erasing Red Ink, Sesame CEO Offers Vision To Preserve Home Of Big Bird http://www.npr.org/2016/10/13/497803214/key-to-big-bird-and-elmos-survival-sesame-workshop-ceo-outlines-vision The means to achieve that end: kindness and empathy! Google “sesame research on empathy and kindness”…this is a serious effort.

Excerpts below are from http://www.sesameworkshop.org/press-releases/u-s-parents-teachers-see-an-unkind-world-for-their-children-new-sesame-survey-shows-2/

(October 13, 2016) – Parents and teachers in the United States worry that their children are living in an unkind world, that people do not go out of their way to help others, and believe that children need strong social-emotional skills to succeed in life, according to a new survey commissioned by Sesame Workshop called “K is for Kind: A National Survey On Kindness and Kids.”

Nearly three-quarters of parents and almost four-fifths of teachers say they “often” worry the world is an unkind place for children. At the same time, parents and teachers clearly see the importance of having strong social-emotional skills. Almost three-quarters of parents believe it is very important for their child to be accepting of others, to be polite, and to have manners, while about three-quarters of both parents and teachers prioritize kindness over academic achievement. “Getting good grades” was one of the least important attributes for children, with less than half of parents and only about a tenth of teachers describing it as “very important.”

Sesame Workshop CEO, Jeffrey D. Dunn: “This survey confirms our concerns. It is time to have a national conversation about kindness. We hope that this is a first step towards doing that.”

For more information on the survey, visit kindness.sesamestreet.org, and to join the conversation on social media, follow #TeachKindness.



NEED-Youth Suicide Petition –Belay that Thought! 9-16-16

9-16-16 UPDATE: after some very good discussions on Ripple Power (FB closed group) the plan is to scuttle the plan…no value in petitioning to take action on bullying-induced youth suicides. Not going heartless-just a reality. The issues are complex.


Comment with your input, I will organize into the main document as best I can. This is posted to gather input from Ripple Power members, but if you’re not part of that closed group and you stumble across it, please add your input. We need action!

HELP! Need input. I want to do a petition (oh no, not another!) to elevate the youth suicide. It’s a mental health issue in part, which needs serious attention on a whole ‘nother level. But we need to specifically address bully-induced suicides. This is an international tragedy – stand in line, right? And there are tons of different things out there—groups, approaches, too many experts and disjointed efforts …and too many kids writing a final end to their personal tragedy. PLEASE lend a hand. NEEDS:

  • Research youth suicide rates and causes,
  • Input on how to REALLY grab peoples’ attention to sign the petition….AND to get involved
  • Specific actions to recommend,
  • Find the right vehicle / outlet for a petition.

PROBLEM DESCRIPTION: Zero tolerance policies are spotty and ineffectively enforced. Awareness and prevention programs are not enough and are not taken seriously (FIRSTHAND observation from my local school system). Social-emotional learning is not a priority, and when it is part of a school’s curriculum is not supported but tolerated. Children cannot be the extent of the focus because they are just the end result of the bigger problem: a society that accepts, allows tolerates bullying behavior.

ROOT CAUSES (partial list!) Domestic violence includes physical and verbal abuse, and it is a leading contributor to making bullying behavior “acceptable” and normal. Women have been speaking out since forever and dying.

Media is to blame: what gets attention? Murder, any outrageous violence. Kids are powerless and when they need help what will get attention? What they see so … “I am hurting. I will hurt someone and someone will see me.”

ACTION PLAN: Don’t just be saddened for an appropriate amount of time, then go about your regular business until the next one is reported! The problem must be addressed from all angles, by all stakeholders: education, parents / families, private sector, community leaders–civic groups, religious communities and government….

Get organizational support from various existing groups…Edutopia, Greater Good Science Center, Area education agencies, school boards etc. TROUBLE SPOT: many of these are country clubby, closed doors, protective of their turf, not open to outsider meddling. But outsider engagement is exactly what they need!

DRAFT WORDING…research other similar-topic petitions for structure! This petition is to call attention to the need for immediate and definitive action to address the frequency of suicides by young people, defined as ages nn to nn. While this is a sub-set of mental health, specific issues related to bullying behavior in schools and social media are the target of this petition. There are currently no legal or civil controls in place, no effective initiative used on a broad scale to address the root causes of bullying that may lead to self-harm by young people.

DISTRIBUTION of COMPLETED PETITION for SIGNATURES. Need high visibility, high exposure. Need viral distribution, some way to circle back to those who signed the petition, as they are the beginning of the grass roots organization of masses that are needed to support this!

  • Social media groups—Facebook, LinkedIn, others
  • Community, friends-local media, church groups


Engagement and Mojo—Peas and Carrots

(originally Supercharging Engagement, 2018 update)


Human needs, values and motivators are common for all ages. The principles that make learning and education effective are mirrors of the principles of workplace engagement, and effective workplace leadership mirrors effective teaching methods. It’s a small stretch from there: those same factors can determine whether communities are sustainably healthy. We can leverage the similarities of these principles.

Engagement theory has been studied for decades, and the workplace impacts are well-known. Education has also dabbled in engagement. The new kid on the block is “social engagement”. As young people in school and adults at work and in the community all benefit from the same engaging attributes, it stands to reason that those attributes can be leveraged in a broad social initiative, focused single-community efforts with a shared vision of understanding and actually utilizing the known enablers of engagement. In doing so, we would enable a more highly engaged population, and build a better world.  

We know what motivates people to be more engaged. We know why engagement works and we know what is disengaging. We’ve repeatedly measured actions and correlated highly desirable outcomes to those actions. We know how and how much engagement levels affect performance. We know the top influencer: values-driven, purposeful people are highly effective in every aspect of their lives. They are less stressed and live longer, are more productive in school and at work, are highly involved contributors in their community, are better family members….more successful all around.

With such a huge upside it should be easy to gain broad understanding and buy-in. But the engagement industry is over-saturated and highly competitive, with countless vendors hawking their wares. The whole subject is artificially confusing and suffers from low credibility as a result.

Various models may be patent or trademark-protected, but engagement theory itself is not. Unique market-driven differences in content, approaches and terminologies may have some kind of protection. But strip off the fancy marketing-concocted window-dressings and they’re all pretty much the same (see “Universal Engagers” later). It should be a whole lot easier than the experts like to let on. Give ‘em a break, it’s how they make their living.

Those who have bought in are rewarded with impressive results. The “secrets” are right in front of us and they’re mostly free. Still, even though we know engagement’s potential we’ve only been dabbling. Either not enough of the right people get it, or if they do get it they choose not to do the right thing by people, especially when it comes to chasing the greater value beyond workplace engagement. With scattered exceptions, it’s just untapped potential–social vitality, personal satisfaction, and broad economic results must be too big for normal people to grasp.

“Home is home, work is work, life is life.” Wrong. Society, work, home–each impacts the others.

More than ‘Employee Engagement’

Engagement research and volumes of literature focus on employee engagement in the workplace. It’s all business, after all: driven by the promise of greater productivity and profit, we’ve ignored the greater good, the huge potential beyond the workplace. What would be the impact of a coordinated effort to grow engagement in education, community, families? Maybe we first need a more inclusive definition of engagement to help expand our focus:

People are “engaged” when they are fully connected and committed to a course of action, whatever the endeavor and they are willing and able to put extra effort into a task or activity and doing it well, whatever the task. Outcomes: higher performance and goal attainment, greater individual satisfaction and well-being. These outcomes all get a boost from higher levels of engagement whether school, workplace, family, or community.

Engagement is more than keeping employees happy to boost productivity and make money. While it delivers those goods the broader potential is that employee engagement directly impacts the emotional and economic well-being of the entire community. Championing community engagement is corporate social responsibility on steroids and it’s smart business too: an engagement-aware company boosts the well-being of employees, and the surrounding community…the company’s talent pool, present and long-term.

Employee disengagement is easy to measure. Lost productivity, attrition and health issues have a clear dollar impact. But there are also economic factors in education/student and community/ citizen disengagement. We just haven’t devoted a lot of energy to measuring them, to better understand the hard dollar cost of these symptoms:

  • Disengaged students don’t care about their education. They see little promise for the future, have very little hope of becoming anything but a bad statistic. They tune out and under-perform. Worse, they drop out. Worst: suicide. The social and economic cost of student disengagement would be huge and the tragedy of wasted human potential would be sobering and compelling if we could accurately measure then understand it.
  • Disengaged citizens don’t bother getting informed or being involved. What’s the point? Many who do vote don’t have sufficient information to make good decisions. Terminal community decay is a frightening, tightening downward spiral: people don’t care about the community and it goes to hell physically. Civil and legal problems spin out-of-control, along with increasingly significant social issues. People can’t get the heck out of Dodge fast enough if they can escape at all.

Universal Engagers

Engagement-enabling attributes affect students, family members, employees, citizens. Impact the level of engagement in one group, the others are also impacted.

It’s time to really annoy those who make their living from the engagement industry…

Engagement models share several attributes that support high engagement. I’ve identified a pretty good handful for starters. As you review these, consider the impact on students, families, workers, citizens and communities. What would happen if all community stakeholders adopted these as shared principles that guide relationships, everyday actions and long-term goals and decisions? Feel free to add to the list, but non value-adding window dressings don’t count!

  1. Values. My values help focus my Purpose. Without values, Purpose exists in a vacuum, it is directionless, meaningless. We’re drawn to environments where we feel comfortable, and we’re more at ease when our values are aligned with the surrounding environment and others around us. We’re uncomfortable when our values are stifled or they conflict with reality—we need a good fit. Values may be subconscious: even if we’re not aware of them, in a mismatch we still know something’s not right, and we know we don’t like it. We just don’t know what’s wrong or why we feel bad.
  2. Vision. Moses didn’t say “let’s go wander in the desert for a few decades and see where we end up”. They set out for the Promised Land (vision) to escape Pharaoh’s cruel rule (purpose). Connecting to vision can be as simple as providing meaningful “why” behind the “what”, which establishes line of sight from everyday tasks to compelling group goals. Eye on the Prize!
  3. Purpose. We all want and need to make our mark. We need something that makes us want to get up in the morning, something to look forward to besides going to a good movie. What am I involved in that matters long-term? How can I make a difference in the grand scheme of things? My personal purpose: make an impact, leave a legacy.
  4. Community, Belonging.  Humans have been social creatures since first banding together in tribes for safety and companionship. But it’s more than strength in numbers. We have a basic human need to be part of a group—at school, work, socially, in the community. (side note: our isolated modern lifestyle can be incredibly emotionally destructive);
  5. Caring and Trust.  No matter how old the kid we all need nurturing. We’re human—we need someone to truly care about us. Not about what we do or how much we do or how well we do it…but someone who actually cares about US and isn’t afraid to show it.
  6. Opportunity to Shine: when people do what they do best and truly enjoy doing, they produce exceptional results. Positive psychology, Mihaly’s flow, Iowa common sense too …contented cows do give more milk. Emotional and physical well-being skyrocket with achievement, leading to even more impressive performance—a reinforcing loop.
  7. Opportunity to Grow: the Army has it right. Deep down, we all want to be all that we can be. We have core strengths (#6) but that’s not enough for most of us. We want to be more, we want to do more. It’s not just doing more stuff, meaning and purpose also help us grow. Think Maslow and “actualization”…the pinnacle of the pyramid.
  8. Expectations and Feedback. We are driven to make a meaningful contribution, and we’re more willing and able to deliver if we have a roadmap from today to tomorrow. Along the way we need to know we’re doing the right things and how we’re doing. The ideal is a destination (goal) that is compelling, where the route and the tasks (strategy, action plans) are driven by a vision (2); and are purposeful (3).

These eight attributes may build on each other, so this is a logical order. But order isn’t carved in stone—all eight are interconnected. It just makes sense and it may be most effective when Values drive Vision and Purpose. Being true to your values also ensures a greater level of personal alignment and satisfaction, less stress and better health…all of which enables better performance and results (think “loop”). So, values identification should be the first priority.

Community vision and individuals’ values-driven purpose must be aligned. They cannot safely stay in conflict long. Alignment begets synergy: one strengthens the other, a reinforcing loop.

Rubber Hits the Road (first working draft)

  • One community, one shared vision. Private sector is critical, identify one champion organization. First step: connect with the right private sector leader(s). Ideal: a collaborative effort by a coalition;
  • Cross section of community leaders from all sectors meets to review purpose, general premise, potential. Outcome, if a “go” decision is a statement of support to announce the initiative;
  • Press / media campaign to generate advance awareness and interest. Community group meeting blitz, article series, direct distribution of support information;
  • Large session (open?) for sector leaders and members:
    • Initiative overview: what and why, main steps;
    • Learn about the Universal Engagers and their potential for the community’s well-being: current social state / desired future. Overview of the reinforcing loop model;
    • Sector-specific breakouts: “how can we leverage each of the Universal Engagers in our sector?”
    • Report highlights to the large group, identify similarities / synergies;
    • Adopt all-community Purpose and Goals, and specific sector Action Plans;
    • Identify champions and agree on next steps.


NOTE: this initiative is ideal for foundation or other grant support, and for socially conscious individual philanthropists. It is completely reproducible and marketable, especially after just one far-seeing community knocks it out of the park. We’re all in this together.

Closing Thoughts (followed by specific findings on engagement, workplace and education)

I’m a private sector/education hybrid. I’ve been involved in (a) social-emotional learning in education and (b) leader development and engagement in the workplace. The lightning bolt finally hit. They’re the same thing!

Emotional intelligence, leadership, character development, social-emotional learning, employee engagement… take away the vendor-concocted “differences”. Distill them down and they’re the same basic human needs. And they’re all represented by the universal engagers.

The engagers share deep roots. We learn the same things the same way through childhood socialization reinforced throughout our lives. But we’re being drawn toward recklessly pursuing more and more “things” and juggling the demands of an endless list of urgent to-do’s. We’ve forgotten what it means to be human. When norms and values get lost in the shuffle, problems crop up—unethical/illegal behavior, rudeness and other variations of treating each other like crap, and myriad significant social issues. We’re trying to survive those problems now.

I haven’t seen it put in these specific terms yet but with the huge body of research out there, you can logically connect the dots to support these statements:

  • Young people have the same basic needs adults do. Kids respond the same way to the same stimuli, because it’s human nature;
  • The state of mind called “engaged” is the same in education, the workplace, society;
  • Engagement has a high probability of carry-over. A highly engaged student is likely to pursue an engaging work environment. A highly engaged employee is likely to have a healthier family and social relationships, likely to be a valued community member;
  • Highly engaged parents are likely to raise highly engaged kids;
  • Because engagement is contagious we can supercharge our efforts and realize even greater results by focusing on all sectors, all stakeholders in a systemic initiative.

What if ownership of values, goals and action plans was shared among educators, private sector, community, and individuals of all ages? Synergy, reciprocating efforts and effects, that’s what. The broader the focus, the greater the impact. It’s more than “employee” engagement.

We’re all in this together!

For supporting data, see  The Business Case for Engagement and Social-Emotional Learning


Kids Epiphany–for Brielle and Sean

Lately I’ve been hit with several stories that need to be told. Not a Newtown, Paris or Brussels level of mega tragedies, these are more personal. Like most people, Newtown CT hit me hard. But it’s distant enough now that while I remember continuously, Newtown is not the ceaseless gut-punch like it was the first year. But that hollow feeling is creeping back, and it has finally rekindled my resolution to do what I can to make things “better”. Two stories in particular pushed me past the tipping point, Brielle and Sean are saved for last.

This is a triple-purpose post. First, to help me process the emotions. I need to verbalize these stories at some point but I’m not confident I’ll keep my emotions under control. Through these words maybe I’ll get my heart around the emotions. Second purpose, more importantly, is to trigger thinking and action.  Third, to fight the risk of numbness. We cannot stop feeling.

Self-made Man

Adam struggled in elementary school. He had stomach problems and regularly soiled his pants. And he struggled to learn. Of course, kids made brutal fun of him and the emotional issues piled up. Adam’s family moved from town to town, hoping to find a school where his problems wouldn’t be noticed and he would fit in. But his problems remained and the dream fit didn’t happen.

He finally outgrew his stomach problems, but the learning issues remained. In high school Adam made a series of “bad decisions”. He came to the realization on his own he had two possible paths. One would lead to prison, the other held some promise. He convinced his mother to help and she agreed, on the condition he was sincere and stayed the course.

They finally found out he was autistic, high-functioning but still challenged by the regular learning process. Adjustments were made, and Adam graduated. He’s been on his own since and has a decent job. Adam is committed to helping other people avoid the pain he endured.

We’re better at diagnosis and special needs now, but we don’t have bullying under control. We haven’t touched the root cause: values, ethics…anemic norms that allow bullying to take place. Identification and corrective action is too late-we need to be proactive!

     Did Adam have all the support he needed? He was just a kid. Why did he have to ask for help? Why did he have to seek out the right path on his own? Adam will tell you it made him a stronger person. But how many kids would not have had the strength to make it? How many need help now and aren’t getting it, and may not be strong enough to make it through?

The Reluctant Dropout

I was working with students at the alternative high school, with young people who for whatever reason have issues with traditional education and are high risk for leaving school. Behind my desk was a life-sized poster of John Wayne with the caption “Don’t much like quitters, son.” When the Duke talks you listen up, Pilgrim…except most teenagers don’t know who he was.

“Ashley” is a 17 year old student. In the morning meeting, a teacher reported that she had asked him if he knew anything about getting paycheck loan advances. That was a big red flag, so he spent some time talking with her.

Ashley’s father had been helping her make ends meet but he left the country with his girlfriend. Her mother had been sharing the apartment and expenses but moved out, she’s no longer in the picture. Ashley’s two teenage roommates have no job, no income. She has no food, no money for car insurance or rent. She said “I don’t want to quit school, but I need to work more hours.”

True story. 17. Ashley is a good kid needing a break, her story is too close to home. Students leaving their education and their future behind is not just a big city issue, it’s right here in my small community of 15,000. This is something we can impact, and even “little” things matter.

     What if we had solid personal relationships and kept in closer touch with our young people, enabling us to take proactive early action when an at-risk situation looms? Not just risk of dropping out, but worse situations. When we do come across a struggler, there must be rapid response intervention by well-trained people.

Miracle in 4th Grade

I taught Guidance for 4th-6th graders, a social and emotional development program that was usually very enjoyable and productive. But one 4th grade class in particular seemed somehow to be home to every misfit in the school regardless of grade. They were my problem children and shame on me but I honestly dreaded every day I was scheduled to be in their class.

I was to read a book on bullying to them, so they all gathered around on the floor with my chair at the head of a semi-circle. I cannot even remember what triggered the lightning strike. A few of the students offered their personal experiences with bullying and handling tough situations. Then Madison raised her hand. She is particularly disruptive and I sighed to myself thinking “here we go…” and called on her.

“I don’t talk about this much” she began, then choked up. She was new to the school that year and had few friends and I could tell she was having a hard time getting started. But then the flood gates opened and out came her short life’s story, extremely emotional because it was from the heart and you could tell she was reliving a lot of pain. So could her class mates.

Madison’s mother died when she was five. Her father was a “piece of ____” (she said the ‘bad’ word but I let it go, so did her classmates). He was never around and didn’t care about her, didn’t take care of her. She was on her own anyway so she ran away in second grade, and got a beating when she was caught. She was in and out of foster homes, none worked out, and ended up with her grandmother who didn’t care about her, was only in it for the money she got from the state.

Many of Madison’s class mates were crying by this time. I was. They took turns going to her to give her a hug, and it turned into a giant group hug. We all needed it.

I was witnessing a miracle and it had just begun.  Another girl spoke up “I would have never had the guts to talk about this, but you helped me Madison—thank you!” She told her story. And another student, and another. I have never been so drained in my whole life. But it was an incredibly good feeling.

This is a somewhat happy tale, but just this chapter. There are so many failure modes in the system, and by the alleged adults in her life. Madison’s story is still being written.

     The Guidance classes are intended to help kids handle deep and powerful emotions. They emphasize the importance of empathy and strong relationships. Kids want and need to really connect with their classmate peers. They need to feel safe enough to unload their deepest emotions and empathetically support each other, especially if the support is not coming from elsewhere. We’re all just walking each other home.

     I’ll guarantee Madison now has twenty classmates and friends who have her back, and those problem children took a giant step toward coming together. But I realize we were lucky that day—it truly was a magical moment, sure wasn’t a light switch I flipped on. We need to develop ways to promote more genuine full-disclosure experiences like that.

Who is to ensure the progress those 4th graders made isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan? And… why don’t we offer social / emotional learning beyond elementary school? It’s needed!  For Brielle….

The First Dagger…for Brielle

A little 14 year old girl took her own life last week in in my home town. This tribute was published, with Brielle’s picture: “… due to bullying and depression. Although I do not personally know her, this affects me greatly as it should any parent. She could be my child, she could be your child. She had a loving family and extended family. But, her grief from being bullied was just too strong. Words hurt. Actions hurt. Let’s all stand up for our children when enough is enough. Brielle was an organ donor and her heart went to a 10 year old little girl. What a precious gift she gave to others.”

Brielle was a beautiful young girl who had the warmest, most genuine smile you could imagine. Even in her picture, you can see the glow and spark in her eyes. This young lady was a good person, and she was so full of life. Snuffed out. Why?

Too many kids carry an unreal amount of baggage around, some of adult origin but also peer-driven. Either way, it takes a long time to break a beautiful child’s spirit. There is no responsibility more important. Why aren’t we paying attention? That we don’t take seriously our stewardship of their fragile spirits is a moral abomination, a tragedy— no other words.

Children’s physical safety, and a lifetime’s worth of mental well-being is at-risk. Even their lives can be at risk. This is small-town Iowa, the whole state leads pretty much a sheltered lifestyle. Yet, the frequency of young people committing suicide is appalling. One is too many, right?

We’re beyond “just one”.

These aren’t just anywhere examples—these are real kids in our own back yard!

Brielle Christina April 25, 2001 – March 9, 2016


April 4th, not even a month later…another child. As fate would have it I’m getting ready right now to go work with 12yo’s…a friend sent me a picture of a smiling boy that age, and his kitten. He lived and died half way across the country, so I didn’t know him. But yet I do.

Another child with such a bright smile, such a vision of hope in his eyes. How long will it be before this little boy’s picture fades away? How long will we moan about “tragedy” before going back to business as usual? I can’t let it go. Can’t.

NEED: starting at a very young age, address the faulty norms that enable any level of bullying. Rekindle tolerance, acceptance…human love they were born with…in every child. Adults need it too. We must have ZERO…not “tolerance” but capability for any kind of bullying behavior. There is lots of lip service in schools and their staff, parents, kids. Oh, we don’t allow bullying. But then we do.

Above all, we need to connect with kids—be their safety net—and connect with each other. How can we be too busy doing ‘stuff’ to pay attention when another human being, especially a child, is crying out for help, possibly for the last time?

We have time to obsess over STEM subjects to make sure there will always be enough semi-skilled workers to keep producing stuff. But we pay lip service to emotional development.

That is the tragedy. That is my greatest frustration with society and especially with education—our priorities are backwards. Brielle, Sean and every young person trying to make it home safely are why I am so consumed by this mission.

Memorial Day Update: in Colorado Springs, three teens took their own lives in one school in one week. The school had recently conducted “suicide prevention training” for kids, parents, educators. But it takes more than awareness, an occasional training event, and posters. We need to give kids and adults a reason to feel they are worth something, at a very early age and continuously after that. We need to give them (all of us) the spiritual strength to cope with what lies ahead. We need it a whole lot more than teaching how to cipher numbers and become scientists and engineers.


Most of you already know how passionate I am about young peoples’ emotional well-being. I’ve written too many times already about youth suicide and bullying. It’s something I deeply care about, and I’ve been searching for a way to make an impact. But they were always far away kids I didn’t really know. Readers are respectfully sad for a while, then we all move on. I’ll admit sometimes that’s true for myself too. All in all, young people’s emotional health in our little community appeared to be in good shape. But I’ll be in a class room tomorrow where there will be one crushingly empty desk. Knowing why it’s empty is really gonna hurt.

Sean’s Song

These are real-time reactions as Sean’s story unfolded. Some of it is from my personal journal, some was shared on a limited-access private Facebook page.

(day one) Please, thoughts and prayers for a 13yo here in my home town who is clinging to life after hanging himself. This is a young man I know somewhat, my grand daughter partners with him in science. I have taught him. This is personal, it’s up-close and it’s very, very tough.

If you have kids hug them, let them know they are loved and are very special. And speak out, lend a hand where you can.

(later, same evening) Key words and kind thoughts (in lots of friend responses) spell out a partial answer to what WE must resolve. Mostly we just need the resolve to make it a priority. Because it IS tragic, it IS an epidemic. This one hurts a lot. Not sure Sean will make it.

(day two) Not unexpected. Sean was declared brain dead last night and he was kept on life support until his organs could be harvested. Find peace.

(day three) And now, for the beginning of the rest of the story…I was at the middle school today where Sean went, a subdued day. They had a basketball game that night, Sean’s best friend wore his jersey. Sean’s dad and sister came, they were out in the hallway talking to a bunch of Sean’s friends in private, my grand daughter included. She came into the gym sobbing, the others soon followed. Sean’s family had shared some “good” news…like Brielle’s gift, a dying little girl had already received Sean’s heart.

I did not know this young man very well, just enough to make his death personal. The survivors—Sean’s family and classmates –are my concern, my grand daughter being one of the latter. We cannot resign ourselves to the notion that this just can’t be helped.

WHAT and HOW, anyone? 

Why is social-emotional learning and development not our highest priority? Things like compassion and caring for each other and self, acceptance of differences, being better equipped to deal with tough emotions and on and on. It doesn’t come from lectures, it can’t be taught from a book but can only come from open, caring, close relationships and strong community. And there isn’t a standard test to measure competency. Only one measure matters—personal well-being, a good person leading a happy, satisfied, fulfilling and full life.

Whether or not it’s overtly stated, this is Mission Critical for the Collaborative initiative… we’ve got to find a way to give kids the emotional, or spiritual if you must, resiliency and strength to withstand the pressure of growing up, then of life in general.

The cornerstone to guiding kids toward maturity is social-emotional. The home environment is a good place to start, but we all need a broader inner circle that has our six any time, every time. We need a community of friends, class mates, peers, and adjunct mentors like teachers.

We need to re-connect with our humanity and we need to connect with each other too. And we CAN make an impact in our schools, if that’s the risky place we must continue to send our kids.

Where to address the “problem” is tough to know because we haven’t accurately famed the real problems. We’ve only been fixing symptoms. It’s not that people commit suicide, it’s not whatever reason drove them to the act. The real issue is “how can we help people, especially young people, become better grounded, more connected to themselves and their self-worth and self-awareness? How can we better prepare them to work their way through the tough emotions that will be bombarding them, whatever the source of those emotions?

Kids need an emotional buffer zone, not just toughness but self-confidence and self-worth. That’s partially where the strength must come from. More than anything, they need to know someone is there for them, no matter what and why. What kind of support networks, communities are lacking and how could we somehow nurture and develop them?

I Got Your Six (https://gotyour6.org/about/faqs)

In the military, “got your six” means “I’ve got your back.” The saying originated with World War I fighter pilots referencing the rear of an airplane as the six o’clock position. If you picture yourself at the center of a clock face, the area directly in front of you is twelve o’clock. Six o’clock is what lies behind you. On a battlefield, your “six” is the most vulnerable. So, when someone tells you that they’ve “got your six,” it means they’re watching your back. By extension, that person expects you to have their back as well.

Kids (and big people too!) need to know they matter, that they make a difference in the world. They need purpose, vision, need a strong community. Frankly, we suck at that.

If there were some sort of magical intervention, should it even mention suicide prevention or bullying? These are outcomes, they are in the past and they can be major distractions and even counter-productive to dwell on. There’s no denying what’s driving the Collaborative effort: well-being, happiness, surviving and thriving. Should we dwell on deviant behaviors, flaws. Focus on the good—it’s human nature, we crave it. There’s bunches of social-emotional development stuff out there. What is the best way to get the right message introduced the right way, where it needs to be? And, how can we reach more than just young people?


Mainstream / traditional education has tried and pretty much failed on the S-E front. No fault: education’s priorities have been set in concrete–STEM curriculum, common core, standard test performance, academic rigor that produces measurable, standard, hard results. But our kids need help, and education needs help to give it—mostly time, resources and expertise.


We need change. Given the current state of education, employers’ need for qualified candidates with the right skills and attributes, given the fragile nature of young peoples’ emotional state, and given our social environment in general, we need change.

Social and civic issues are tearing us apart, our moral and ethical fabric is being torn to shreds. Apathy and disengagement at one extreme, modern stressed-out lifestyle and related mental and social issues at the other. We are disconnected from each other, from our environment, from our selves. We’re in desperate need of social healing and personal realignment.

We can grab hold of self-directed learning as a promising way to help save the younger generation. But the way society is imploding we can’t guarantee we’ll be able to survive for young people to reach the point where they have matured and can make a difference. Enter whole-life learning, social-emotional—human—development. To me, it’s a survival issue—survival of our way of life, survival of the race on this planet.

The ultimate quest

Critical international policy decisions and everyday exchanges between people alike are driven more by profit and power rather than finding common ground as human beings and determining what’s right for the survival of society and of the species. Government and private sector leaders…the same profit and power decision criteria. You may hear a little lip service / casual nod toward that “greater good” thing but when push comes to shove it’s all about profit and power. We don’t elect officials for their values system or their deep love for humanity, we elect (with special interest backing and clout) based on who can deliver profit.

But it all comes back to the huge need for humanity to get back in touch with our soft side, for us to reconnect as human beings with each other, to allow ourselves to get up-close and personal once again, to get back in touch with our own spiritual self. Technology has numbed us. We’re desensitized, more callous, calculating, cold.

Humans are naturally social creatures. We’re tribal, we need community, we need each other. Yet, the further we scratch and claw our way up the techno ladder the further it seems we backslide down the evolutionary chain. Most of the animal world shows more compassion than we do, even compassion to other species.

We need a world where people share core human values, where all are driven by a common purpose. Stupid me, this is my chosen passion. And I’m well aware that I need serious advice on right-sizing this mission.