I'm sure when we were much, much younger than we are now, many of our dream jobs included becoming a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a soldier, or a policeman. We grew up closest to professionals in these fields. We interacted with them and felt their immediate impact on our lives. We looked up to them and probably even thought certain aspects of their jobs were almost heroic! Think about shiny police batches, cool uniforms, writing on chalkboards (my personal favorite), giving out vitamin C tablets after vaccination, and using those stethoscopes.
Then, we grew up. We realized there were many more jobs and many more fields. While our perspectives and possibilities might have broadened with increased exposure and information, our dreams became increasingly limited. How ironic? Our own limitations (many of which imaginary and self-imposed), parents' expectations (and directions in many cases), teachers' comments, and peer pressure got in the way. Is this job well-respected? Is it highly ranked when it comes to this whole social hierarchy? Is it going to make my parents proud? Is it going to get me rich? Is there a future?
As children, we were much simpler people. No beating ourselves up for a drop in GPA, no comparing ourselves with our friends, our mother's friends' sons and daughters, our neighbors, etc. As children, we were largely and naturally open-minded, curious, excited, and passionate. We weren't scared to fly. We weren't scared to get our feet and hands dirty in the process of discovering something new or doing something fun. If only the same kind and the same amount of energy was put to work in different areas of our many many years of education, imagine the kind of society we would be able to construct. A society of risk-takers, creative thinkers, and innovators.
Changes don't have to be big for them to be significant.
Small changes DO build up and lead to far-reaching results.
Let me give a few examples to illustrate my points. When I was young, my ultimate favorite TV show was Art Attack, a children's TV show revolving around art and creativity. I was so inspired by the show and how the host dared to think outside the box and make literally everything under the sun work as a source of his creativity (grains of salt to draw a beautiful horse!?!).
In one of his card-making episodes (if I remember correctly), the host used thick white PVA glue to make little clouds. The glue gave the clouds their perfect color and airy fluffy texture. Inspired and excited, I used the same trick in my Art & Craft class at school. I was so proud of myself and excited to share 'my fluffy clouds' with everyone. At the end of the class, my art teacher came up to me. She wasn't happy at all that I wasted all that glue. The school's PVA glue. Creativity and positive energy therefore went right back to where they came from: the head. Inside the box.
Imagine a different take on the situation. What would have happened if the teacher, instead of stopping me, said WOW or even taught me an even more advanced technique to make those chunks of glue even more cloud-like? What would have happened if the teacher showed off my work to the rest of the class or even wrote a short note to my parents about it? Small change, BIG results. I would have learned a new skill or been so happy about her positive comments. The class could have learned something new from their peer. My parents would have been excited or maybe even realized my secret potential. While this incident was a long time ago, it left an impact on me. Teachers do influence their students in unexpected ways. Knowingly and unknowingly. A little push, a little motivation, and a little excitement from teachers' end really go such a long way.
Another example is how Babson College (where I went to school) teaches its entrepreneurs. Everywhere you go on our campus, every syllabus you read, everyday of your life, you come across the word 'Entrepreneurship'. Repeated over and over, the word becomes part of you and your entire experience there. Not only do you hear the word over and over, you get to really live it. Straight out of high school and only 18 years old, we get to handle $3,000 dollars, start, and run our own businesses. Some instruction, little control of the adults. Just groups of freshmen managing everything from ideation all the way to conflict resolution, financial reports, and sales. Small change, BIG results. Professors take the backseat and let us grow into the adults and entrepreneurs we want to be. This is 'the real life' of entrepreneurs. Not everyone has learned (let alone gets to learn) all the Marketing, Finance, Accounting, IT, Operations, and Management they need to know. Most of the time, they just have to pick it up along the way. Learning by doing. Getting their feet and hands dirty in the process of discovering something new and doing something fun.
Trust me, there is no ego, no resistance, no barriers, nothing whatsoever when you have so much to learn and so much to do! Isn't this exactly what we want from learners? Once freshman year is over, Babson then teaches you all the business subjects, tips, and tricks. Not to tell you 'this is the right way to do it or think about it', but to help you reflect, 'what should I have done differently if I could run that business again?', 'what this textbook says is oversimplified! Real life isn't like that, based on my experience', 'if I did this when I was in charge of Marketing, so and so would have happened'. If learning was the other way around at Babson (theory, then application), this whole reflection wouldn't happen. Babson entrepreneurs wouldn't be the entrepreneurs they are if they simply followed the instructions, theories, and 'to-do lists'.
I truly believe in the power of education in transforming lives. Imagine how many teachers, professors, coaches, and principals/deans a student comes across in his/her entire academic career. If these influencers add something or change something about how the student learns or how they can help the student learn, the impact is definitely felt. Sometimes it only takes small actions, small changes, and small sources of inspiration combined to make all the difference.
These small yet significant and extremely powerful actions are in our hands to take.