Learning, Living and Giving

I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday. ~Abraham Lincoln

by Pete Ferguson

In early September I had the opportunity to spend a day with a very successful leader in our company. We were at a company offsite and were stuck on a bus for about an hour and I had the opportunity to ask him several questions.

When I asked what books were on his nightstand, for he has recommended several inspirational business books in recent times, he surprised me when he revealed that he is studying the California State Budget.

This very accomplished leader could be seen as being at the top of his game. But instead of resting on his laurels, he meets with several mentors regularly, and one of them had questioned him on politics in his state, and particularly the budget. And he was unable to answer.

Part of becoming a well-rounded person is to have a good grasp on deep issues, and not to just be able to recite rhetoric from pop-culture books or the flavor-of-the-month business book.

Success leaves clues, and those clues can be found everywhere, even in good fiction.

I have greatly enjoyed finding knowledge in a variety of places. Mythbusters is my favorite TV show because it gets me to think through problem solving, and there are also great opportunities to blow stuff up.

The Science Friday’s PBS podcast has also opened topics to consideration I wouldn’t have stumbled upon on accident.

During my 60 minutes of commute each day, I listen to a variety of podcasts and both sides of politics on the radio.

The Glory of God is Intelligence – Brigham Young University motto

Education is more accessible and free than at any other time in my life. I’m currently taking a free course from Stanford University entitled “Designing a New Learning Environment.”

In this week’s lecture, professor Paul Kim discusses the problems with introducing technology throughout the world. He illustrated two examples. In the first, a well-meaning group was able to donate solar panels, a projector, and computer to an underdeveloped area. Unfortunately the solar panels only gave enough juice to use the projector for two minutes a day – not even enough time to warm up the bulb.

In the second, a generator was provided, but the diesel fuel is hard to get and expensive, and there was no means to keep the maintenance up, so it sits idle.

Kim also tells of the very negative unintended consequences of giving picture books on cleanliness or other educational topics to impoverished countries showing American children enjoying what we take advantage of – running water, electricity, clean clothing, etc.

I’ve heard stories of well-meaning missionaries going to Africa to dig a well and install a pump to add running water to a village. Pictures are taken and posted on Facebook, a feast is held to celebrate and everyone has a great time and returns to America. A year later the pump is broken with no money or means to fix it, and all of the merchants who lived between the former water source and the village are now struggling to make ends meet. The next time American’s show up to “fix” a problem, they are not so welcome.

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In giving, we must truly understand the needs of others and the context in which they will receive what we term as a gift – but they may term as more problems and obstacles.

This new knowledge is a priceless truth for me to learn early on in my life and I’m grateful for it.

My father always had interesting dinner guests from around the world. Whenever the University for which he worked was hosting an international traveler, they usually made it to our dinner table. I have done the same and my children have dined with a Korean, Indian, Chinese, Singaporean, and German to mention a few.

As I establish my 2013 goals, I am looking for many different avenues of education through a variety of media to include workshops, webinars, podcasts, books, lectures, concerts, fairs, and museums for me and for my family.

As the addage goes, you will be the same person in 5-10 years from today except for the people you meet, the books you read – and I’d like to add – and the experiences outside of your comfort zone you complete.

Happy Tuesday! Go learn something unique and different!

Unfortunately, this last quote applies too much to me at times:

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked” ~ Voltaire

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