Insights on Chris Guillebeau’s “Guide to World Domination”

Chris Guillebeau, world traveler and pro non-conformist, brings up two essential life questions on the path to “World Domination”: #1: What do you really want to get out of life? and #2: What can you offer the world that no one else can? Trying to live out and utilize the answers to these questions becomes a sort of ultimate goal in Guillebeau’s manifesto,  “A brief guide to world domination.” Having useful and implementable answers to these questions is key to separating yourself from the unremarkable average and becoming part of the average few. A good way to find answers to what’s important to you is to imagine your ideal Saturday, without any requirements. Put what you would ideally want to be doing on a priority list and “quarantine” the requirements that don’t provide happiness. Once you take this first step to chasing your dreams and doing something incredible, realize that in order to take over the world, you have to do what you really want while also radically helping others. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Story-telling, simple and true stories, are at the heart of the journey to the greatness. To break through our noise-filled world, stories must have poignant, piercing meanings that can touch people’s hearts and minds. And once you get something, remember to give back. The world needs people who are givers and takers, to keep the cycle of goodness going. It’s like the paying it forward movement, a chain reaction of kindness. (Side note: If you’ve never seen this, google it. It’s incredible but rather sad.) Connections can take people the extra mile further.  Reaching out to people builds strong rapport, which can help you surmount obstacles and critics that attempt to stop your progress. These critics will try their hardest to tear you down, but the important thing is not to let their negativity get to you. Stay positive and focused on doing what you enjoy.

Mediocre has come to be the new “good-enough” or “high standard” (current airlines anyone?), but you don’t have to accept that as constant. The good thing about this level of mediocricity, according to Guillebeau, is that whenever someone does something extremely unaverage, it’ll come across as uncommonly excellent and draw more positive attention. To achieve this pinnacle of excellence and, you know, conquer the world, you need a few more things alongside your passion and story. Your connections form a small army of supporters, promoters and friends of those friends who, like I said, help boost you upwards. And of course like in every venture, money and time are important assets: Money to fund the venture and time to devote to pursuing it.

Once you have the tools you need, you need a plan of action; you need to plot the course you wish to take. Guillebeau prefers the ready-set-fire method, with minimal deliberation and rapid action. He says, “the choice doesn’t matter—just do something.”

With that, I’m off to take over the world, one small army at a time.

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What if others knew about the flip side to the single story?

Today in English, we had the awesome opportunity (awesome for me at least), of watching a TED talk called “The Danger of a Single Story,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Purple Hibiscus. She was an early reader and as a result, an early writer. She says that her writing almost exactly mimicked those of the stories she read. In her stories, like those of the British ones she read, the characters “talked a lot about the weather and how lovely it was that the sun had come out,” and her characters drank ginger beer regardless of fact that she as an author had never had Ginger Beer. This early foray into the worlds of reading and writing showed her how impressionable and vulnerable we, as children and possibly as adults, are to stories. Adichie specifically formed the impression that books must be about things with which she could not identify, that they must contain foreign aspects. All that changed when she started reading “African” literature like Chinua Achebe and she saw that a girl like her could exist in literature.

 Just as the few actual stories she read had led Adichie to form an impression of books in general, stories that were passed on by mouth, and media-fueled stories also created opinions. In her TED talk, Adichie talks about how at an early age she was exposed to the danger of a SINGLE story. Her family was a typical, middle-class, Nigerian family meant that they had servants. Adichie says that her mother also chastised them for leaving behind food on their plates, that she would make them feel guilty for wasting when families like their servants’ had nothing in comparison. This conditioned her so that whenever she thought of the servants, all she thought of was “poor.” Her perceptions all changed when she visited one of the servant’s families one day and to her surprise found that they’d made a beautiful quilt. This shocked her because she’d been accustomed to seeing them as nothing but poor and hadn’t fathomed that they were able to make anything. The tables turned on a Adichie in college when her roommate asked her naïve questions about her “tribal music and how she’d learned English so well.” The roommate had a sort of patronizing, well-intentioned pity towards Adichie, because she assumed that Adichie was from “backwards Nigeria” and did not know “normal” things like how to use a stove. These uninformed thoughts on blacks and Africans came straight from Western literature. English merchant, John Locke, called them “Beasts who have no houses. They are also people who have no heads, having their mouths and eyes in their breasts.” Nowadays, we can see the outrageousness in these claims that are based in no facts, and influence by no reality. This description, along with others like Rudyard Kipling’s “half-devil, half child” comparison, started the tradition of negative perception towards African countries.

“Show a people as one thing, over and over again and that is what they become,” says Adichie. Stories have enormous power, and the single story contains lots of negative muscle. In Adichie’s words, “If you want to dispossess someone, tell their story and start with the second part. Start the story with the failure of the African states, not with their creation by the British and you have a completely different story.“ It’s all about how you look at it.  “Single stories,” says Adichie, “are not untrue, just incomplete.” For every negative story, there’s an un-catastrophic, positive one. Having single negative stories flattens the experience, makes it devoid of richness, happiness and diversity. Unlike most writers, Adichie had a relatively happy childhood. But sprinkled among the sunshine and flowers were morsels of unhappiness: she grew up with a repressive government that undervalued education, watched certain items of food slowly disappear from the dinner table, and lived in an almost constant state of normalized political fear. But Adichie uses these experiences in support of the quote, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” “The consequence of the single story,” according to Adichie, “is that it robs people of dignity. Stories matter…they can empower and dehumanize; they can break dignity as well as repair it.”

Adichie ended her talk with this impactful quote, “When we reject the single story, we regain a kind of paradise.” To reject the single story is to hear and know all sides. There’s always a flip side to every story. With the aim of finding this flip side and avoiding the single story, my English class and I are researching about the individual facets of Nigeria and its culture throughout the ages. I’m looking forward to reaching a kind of paradise. See you all on the flip side!

 

 

How to be a High School Superstar: Pt. 1

"What the hell does passion mean?", says Cal Newport, nicely summarizing the thoughts that nag me whenever someone asks me what im passionate about or tells me to follow my passion. I thought I had a rough idea that passion centered around interests, extra curricular activities, and what one does in free time.

In his book, "How to be a high school super star," Newport discusses how to get into one’s "dream" college without a stressful life leading up to admissions. In his opinion the key is to free you schedule and spend that free time doing something you enjoy. That devotion and interest shows when it comes time to apply to colleges and colleges appreciate the deviation from the cookie cutter, "well-rounded" and often burnt out applicant.

This devotion and interest is most often categorized as passion. But Newport goes further to explain what passion really is saying, that it’s not passion that matters but "genuine interest". Fake "passion" engineered for admissions is easy to see through; it’s the kind of interest that stems from personal choices that admissions officers appreciate when it shines through a person’s personality and interactions.

The Evolution of Technology

So this weekend, I had planned on renting a bunch of movies to watch, and had expected it to be a quick and easy job. However, the last time I rented a movie was at least 3 years ago. Turns out that since then, all the Blockbusters near my house have gone out of business. My dad and I had to visit the site of 3 “extinct” blockbusters and 1 that was going out of business, until we found one that could rent us the movies. At the last stop, we were informed that for only $10 a month with the first 3 months free, we could stream over 1500 or so movies at anytime through our dish satellite. This service also had mail order movies for new releases. So what could have been accomplished in mere minutes ended up taking a few hours.

This for me was an awakening example of how much technology has evolved and how it has permeated our home lifestyle. Why, if we have adjusted and accepted the involvement of technology into our lives outside of work/school, and even in most workplaces, do we not think it necessary to have technology integrated into schools? In this day and age when technology is such a big part of our lives, by keeping technology out of schools, we aren’t accomplishing anything helpful. On the contrary, by having students only exposed technology outside of where they spend most of their time, children can lack technological etiquette. This could be remedied if shools incorporated technology into their curriculums and activities.

Our world has advanced technology, so why don’t our schools, which supposedly prepare children for the future, mirror this new technologically updated world?

Learning has no limits

“When does learning begin?”, asks Annie Murphy Paul in her TED talk, “What we learn before we’re born”. She brings up ideas like, the first time in a classroom with a teacher, learning to walk and talk in the toddler years, or the 0-3 movement leading to the thought that learning begins at birth. But she mainly supports the idea, brought up by  new scientific findings, that we actually learn a whole bunch even before we’re born. Paul is the author of the book Origins, “a report from the front lines about an exciting new scientific discovery” known as fetal origins. Fetal origins is the idea that “our health and wellbeing in the world is crucially affected by our 9 months in the womb.”

While still in their mother’s tummy, fetuses learn a multitude of things. They can hear their mother’s voice because it reverberates through her body constantly, allowing the baby to recognize it soon after birth. Also, babies tend to cry in their mother’s native tongue, meaning that their cries mimc certain linguistic tones similar to that language. This knowledge helps the child evolve, helps the baby further endear itself to its mother and gives them a step up towards learn to speak said langauge. Babies don’t only soak up sounds but tastes and smells as well. After 7 months, the baby swallows the tastes of foods that their mother eats while pregnant and have been found to develop a liking for those foods once out in the world. Much of what the mother does, such as the places she visits, what she eats, what she smells, and the chemicals she takes in, all are transmitted to her baby in some form, rather as a debriefing of the cultutre and setting he/she will soon be a part of.

As intriguing as this concept was and the questions it brought to mind, such as how children whose mothers drink or smoke while pregnant turn out, this TED talk held another message for me. Learning knows no age, no boundaries. It begins even before we’re born and doesn’t have to stop.With that idea in mind, a question popped up: why do people automatically assume that learning stops when school does?

I think learning doesn’t have to be limited to school, that it can take place anytime, anyplace and at any age. For example, my grandmother uses the ipad to explore whatever suits her fancy and to satisfy her curiosity. That’s learning. Engaging in discussion on twitter, following links posted on social media, reading blogs and acting upon them. All that is learning. Powerful, impactful, genuine learning that isn’t limited to school and doesn’t have an age limit. That is my ideal state of learning. The ultimate sponge experience.