To Dream the Impossible Dream
Hello and happy New Year 2020!
To kick off this new decade I want to bring along something from the last one. This is the The Introduction to the Book "TradeSchool Culture: Reviving a Human Education of Faith, Love, and Joy". I wrote the introduction back in 2015 prior to some significant life changes.
I share this with you to give you a taste of what the book is about. However, I'm also posting it as a source of inspiration. For you? Yes. But, mainly for me. Let me tell you why.
See, in 2008 I dreamed of a new way of living--not only for me--but for all Americans who seem to be suffering more mental illness day by excruciating day. So I studied the past:
Success Literature from Benjamin Franklin to Dale Carnegie to Tony Robbins
The histories of school and apprenticeship from John Dewey to Milton S. Hershey including a study of standard-based vs. project-based education
Origins of cultural terms like: "Teenager" spawned from changes in wealth and technology in the 1920s
And much larger cultural events that have a lasting impact on your world today
I've learned so much, that it is difficult to distill it back into a single tome. However, even though my journey of writing this book has been stilted, I have changed so much!
Posting this introduction is inspiring to me because it testifies I've become through the process of writing. This blog would not exist if it weren't for the book. And it feels so exhilarating to share my thoughts about the education from the past that I've been pursuing in order to change our future.
Please enjoy this brief introduction!
Introduction - To Dream the Impossible Dream
Will Smith said in his “inside the actor’s studio” interview that you have to dream big. He referenced dreams that were completely impossible. Imagine if someone told you to fly.
Ha. Yeah, right. Impossible!
Now imagine you took a piece of metal, shaped it into a bird and made it fly. That also sounds impossible. Yet that’s what the modern airplane is—and human beings fly inside of it.
Isn’t that wild?!
Think of it next time you see a plane. It’s basically a metal bird that swallows people, flies away, and regurgitates them at another destination.
Ew! Gross! Not exactly a top-of-mind idea. No wonder it took humans thousands of years to figure out how to do it.
Can you believe that People dreamed of flying for thousands of years? But no one ever dreamed (for thousands of years!) that the wings would be made of metal. One, because Iron has only been smelted since around 1200 B.C. But two, even in the modern age there was the question of “How would they ever get it off the ground?”
From the wax and feathered wings of Icarus to the magic carpets of Arabia the ideas were fantastic. From the sketches of Leonardo Da Vinci’s in the 1400s, to hot air balloons in the 1700s, to Chanute’s Gliders in the 1800s, the designs were meant to be light weight.
In the 1790s people started playing with air-powered, steam-powered, and fuel-powered engines. So by the 1890s, the proof of concepts had become more widely-known and adopted.
But how do you add an engine to a hot air balloon? No, that wouldn’t work. How about the glider? Hm. It sounds like the right idea, but jumping off a cliff with a heavy engine strapped above your head or strapped below you on a harness didn't sound terribly safe. Why? Because there was no way to control it.
However, once aviators realized the problem in the way of their potential, the question was easier to solve for. Now that the world had begun using metal (in 1200 BC), tested and flown in gliders, and developed reliable engines (through the 1800s), they were ready to put them together. If only there was a way to steer it…
Enter the Wright Brothers
The human 6,000+ year journey toward flight had led to this take-off point. The Wright brothers didn’t invent the glider or the engine or the idea of smelting metal. All that work had been done for them. So now the world was ready for them to invent some newfangled way of maneuvering the aircraft.
They added a 3-axis control to their engine-powered aircraft the “Kitty Hawk”. After many tests and attempts, they successfully demonstrated controlled flight in 1903.
People Can Fly!
Can you imagine the response?! Can you imagine how overwhelmed the human race must have been after dreaming for all of those centuries? How do you think the whole world celebrated the first controlled flight?
What? Humankind had been dreaming of human flight since they first saw birds! How could the world not rejoice when there was powered, controlled, sustained flight?
The answer is that no one believed it could happen. There were only a handful of people who witnessed the flight. The local newspaper reported it. But outside of Ohio, people scoffed.
3 Years later, in 1906, a newspaper in Paris ran the headline “Flyers or Liars?”. To combat the disbelief, Wilbur traveled to France in 1908 and demonstrated how he could control flight—even flying in a figure 8!
That’s right; it took 5 years—and seeing it in person—for the French to believe that controlled flight was possible. Yet by the time World War I began in 1914, the French were making better airplanes than the Americans.
To Dream the Impossible Dream
Wow. So long waiting for an impossible dream. It makes sense that no one believed it could exist. Because for thousands of years people “knew” that humankind could not fly. But then when the impossible did happen again and again… eventually people had to admit that humankind could fly.
The Perception of What is Possible
Once the perception of what was possible changed, more people began to believe that they could fly. More people built planes. More people traveled in them. More companies decided to use them for carrying cargo. The world changed.
And it only took a few years! First, it took 5 years to believe it was possible. Then it only took another 5 years to decide to travel and carry cargo. Today it is common place for people to travel by plane. We see flight as a luxury that is perfectly safe and a normal mode of transportation when travelling long distances.
"A Business Could Never Run as Efficiently as the United States Post Office"
What if FedEx didn't believe in the capability to fly? How would they complete their 2-day shipping process?
Well, that's a silly question. Because in 1965, Fred Smith conceptualized his idea for FedEx with the airplane in mind. Fred wanted to make money by providing a way to ensure time sensitive materials like medicine could be delivered on time.
Now Fred believed in the Airplane and saw it as the right technology to solve a problem for many people. But what about everybody else? Didn't they believe in airplanes?
Airplanes had been around for over 50 years. In fact, another company called UPS was already sending parcels to major cities in some states via the cargo bays of commercial airliners. Yet, Fred's Yale Economics professor must not have been familiar with UPS because he told Fred:
"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but if you want a grade better than a C, then the idea must be feasible."
By 1972, only 7 years later, Fred Smith had secured the 80 million dollars he wanted to purchase his own airplanes to make his dream come true.
A Drastic Change in Awareness
Isn't it amazing how the impossible dream of human flight changed the world?
Well, let's look at a another change. A smaller change. When is the last time you saw a man swimming with a shirt. It’s a bit abnormal these days, isn’t it? Does it sound silly to have men wear shirts at the beach? Well, did you know that in America it was illegal for men to go shirtless at the beach until 1936?
In Atlantic City, New Jersey, 5 young men showed up at the beach bare-chested and the property owner called the police and saying, “I won’t have any gorillas at my beach.” If they wanted to swim they would be required to wear shirts—just like everybody else.
Yet, I was raised to believe it was normal for men and boys to not wear shirts at the beach. My parents never made me wear a shirt. My male friends never wore shirts. I very rarely, if ever saw a boy wear a shirt at the beach. But you know what? I wish I had.
Why? Because I remember one time when I was at my friend Johnny's birthday party. I sat on the beach making a sand castle. I was very proud of it and Johnny's mom took a picture of me making it. Weeks later after the film was developed (go ahead and Google "developing film"), she gave the picture to my mom. I remember when I got home from school and my mom showed me the picture. It was an action shot of me sitting cross-legged and leaning forward to pat more sand around the base.
To my surprise, I had breasts. The way I was leaning forward emphasized my chubby little chest. I was a mortified, 140-pound 4th grader. That photographic evidence of how fat I was made me completely self-conscious--even though this was weeks later and no one had said a thing at the party. Seeing the picture made me regret the sand castle I made and even attending the party. I was embarrassed because I was completely exposed.
Ever since that experience as a 9-year-old I was sensitive to my appearance at the beach. Now that I was made aware of my appearance, I made sure to never sit in that forward hunched position. I had been educated and it changed--not only my self-awareness, but my behavior as well.
The Beginning of Something Big
Why am I starting the book this way? An Impossible Dream that changed the world and an embarrassing story of self-discovery and shame.
Well, here's where I give away the ending:
I have an impossible dream. In 2008, I had the desire for a developing a new type of school. As of 2018, I finally found the vision by creating the core values. This school functions similarly to a university that allows students to choose courses for study. However, the students do not earn the traditional degrees. In fact, they aren’t even required to pick a major.
Instead, beginning at age 10, they think of something that they want to accomplish within a year's time. So say a 10-year-old wants to build a robot. Throughout the year, they have the opportunity to take science classes that teach about circuitry and even computer programming.
What the student wants to learn will be dependent on their project. Throughout their week, they schedule time for learning and time for working—both independently and with their mentor(s). Courses change quarterly, so the student has the opportunity to take other relevant courses.
However, The student's project doesn't define their life. Part of the curriculum requires a place to serve and a job to do. It could be food service or janitorial work. Or it could be mentoring other people in a particular hobby or skill. It could even be administrative work for the school. It’s 4 hours a day. Another requirement is a physical recreation of some kind. It could be rock climbing or ice hockey, but Golf and Shuffleboard also qualify. It’s 2 hours a day.
Did I mention that the school is inter-generational? Because it has to be. The only way to share the wisdom of experience is by taking on mentors and imparting that wisdom. Is it any wonder that millennials are at a loss for wisdom when our current culture encourages older people to retire to retirement communities? We leave our children in day care with other children who cannot teach them as much as they would learn-one-on-one with their grandparents.
Classes are not segregated by age. Service is not segregated by age. School goes year round and 6 days a week. Yet the schedule is flexible like a university with day and night classes. Some classes are only 2 days a week, some are 4. But the most important class you take, isn't a class at all.
Have you ever heard someone say, "Do what you love every day"? Well, at TradeSchool, it's a requirement. It's not a class, per se, it's simply time you allot every day (6 days a week) to do the thing you love. So if that is drawing or working on cars, or landscape design, or woodworking, or computer programming, or running, or playing guitar, you prioritize doing it
Every. Single. Day.
In the working world, we struggle to get vacations. Holidays are stressful because we’re always trying to work extra hard to complete enough tasks--both before and after--to take a break. At TradeSchool, the work during your 4 weeks of vacation is covered by partnering with your friends and mentors. We work as a team without the stress of having to make the numbers or increase output performance to keep our jobs.
How can we do this?
One key attribute is that we take advantage of technology. Modern methods of agriculture, commerce, and teaching empower us to be extremely efficient in our work.
Another key to TradeSchool is we're not focused on profit. We're not always trying to get ahead. We don't try to build extra wealth like the companies who continually try to build a growing profit. We also don't try to work extra hard so that we can rest extra long or play extra long. We want to work every day and play every day and rest every day and pray every day.
We're focused on living a balanced life now. Today should be one of the greatest days of your life.
The final key attribute is that we serve each other. Because we are seeking to serve each other, we can rely on each other.
Therefore, at TradeSchool, you are graded on:
how you interact with people
how you collaboratively solve problems and execute tasks
personal growth toward goals you set both individually as well as collaboratively
In short, this is a school that teaches people how to be Human.
An Impossible Dream
Alright, so this school sounds impossible. Correct. The school does not exist. Yet, I believe it makes much more sense than making a piece of metal fly.
The reason I believe that this school can exist is because I'm living this life. Over the past 10 years I wrote down some goals and made intentional progress toward figuring out how people can teach and learn every day. How people can live intergenerationally. And let me tell you that it works. In fact, it is disguised in mainstream culture in the most obvious way. I can't wait to reveal this secret!
Now the rest of this book is the embarrassing self-discovery. I've taken a picture of the United States in an awkward position by researching our history which points to where we are today.
So come with me now to explore what has made the United States successful in the past. I'll take you through some of the critical shifts that have led us to where our nation is and what we expect. Finally, I'll tell you where we are heading and how we can reach a new way of interacting and enriching our lives each day. You'll find out how the simplest steps can transform your life, your family, your neighborhood, and create your community.