What are the human transactions of the future?

I am really looking forward to keynoting the All Ohio Counselors Conference next week—a combined audience of career and mental health counselors, helping our youth navigate an increasingly complicated world.

The impact of Artificial Intelligence and technology on the job market is going to change the careers available to graduates and transform the way we interact. With a predicted 38% of today's jobs being automated in 10-15 years, we must consider that human exchanges revolving around goods and services may no longer be the norm.

What are the transactions of the future? I believe we will have a cultural economy—an exchange of cultural values and activities that form the basis of human interaction and the advancement of society. However, with globalization comes cultural dilution, and therein lies a conundrum that educators and counselors must address. Otherwise, we risk devolving into animal instincts and survivalist mentalities.

Combining the idealism of the Millennial generation with their size, which will be followed by the equally large and idealistic Gen Z, we now have the opportunity to naturally grow out of many of society's greatest injustices. However, that will require Baby Boomers to quietly hang onto their baggage and not unload it onto the Millennials. The generation that grew up with segregation being the norm must not inadvertently pollute the generation that grew up with Obama being the norm. If that happens, our noble efforts to extinguish implicit biases will only result in perpetuating them.

Get Monthly Blog with News & Tour Dates

Opt-out anytime

To book a keynote, please contact: info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

It happened again in Charlottesville

It happened again on Saturday night: white supremacists marched with torches in my hometown of Charlottesville VA. The rhetoric from the “terrorists” was louder, more emboldened, and with greater determination to remind the largely liberal Charlottesville community that they are not going away. This time, however, no one counter-protested so it barely made the news.

When this first happened on August 12th, I was traveling in the notoriously turbulent Middle East and that day, on the Syrian/Lebanon border in the thick of Hezbollah territory (see previous blog post). Ironically, it was very peaceful until my phone lit up with reports of “domestic terrorism” on my own doorstep.

Extremists of all types, whether motivated by race or religion, live among us 24/7. As egregious as their beliefs may be, they represent part of the human condition that exists within each of us — implicit bias. We convince ourselves that such biases must be changed, and they probably can be through appropriate education and the natural evolution of the idealistic millennials and Gen Z. However, in order to facilitate the process, we must invoke civility now.

In August, citizens of Charlottesville threw gasoline on a spark and a fire ignited. People were injured, one person killed, and the city unraveled. Now that spark has returned, begging for fuel.

Newton’s third law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, how extreme are we willing to go? Civil war? On the other hand, what if there were no reaction? Would the spark ignite or ultimately fizzle out?

In the quest for world peace, the primary requirement is for differing beliefs to not stoke the fire, but live together in harmony. As humans, and even more so as Americans, we all have more in common to build upon than we have differences to pull us apart.

Like my Lebanese driver told me, “It doesn’t matter if one is Christian, Muslim, Hezbollah, or Army. We are Lebanese first.”

Get Monthly Blog with News & Tour Dates

Opt-out anytime

To book a keynote, please contact: info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

Education, an entitlement or a gift?

I had the honor of keynoting Accenture’s Scrum Gathering this month in Bangalore, India. Scrum/Agile is a project management system derived from a software framework that has evolved into a business culture. This subject fell outside of my comfort zone, which is my favorite place to be; only then do I know that I am learning and growing. Using the concept of "agility," I discussed what it means to be an agile human being and how IT experts can use their skills to solve society's greatest injustices and bring us closer to world peace. It was a risk, but one that resulted in a standing ovation.

While the response to my morning keynote was gratifying, the conference highlight was the afternoon closing session. I invited two graduates of Shanti Bhavan Children's Project—a residential school for the poorest of the poor and the subject of Netflix's new documentary “Daughters of Destiny”—to join me for an on-stage discussion about emerging from abject poverty and gaining career opportunities typically granted to the upper-class. The school's founder and my friend, Dr. Abraham George, joined us for a few closing remarks.

Any child can succeed

Their stories prove that any child can succeed if given the right opportunity, and Shanti Bhavan yields hundreds of these stories. Each year, 12 girls and 12 boys are taken out of the villages before the age four and their education is paid for until they graduate college and begin work. Then, 20-50% of their salaries go toward rebuilding homes in their villages, providing healthcare for their families, and other contributions to their communities. Since the school began in 1997, 97% have graduated from high school, 98% from college, and 97% have gained employment at multi-national companies such as American Express, Goldman Sachs, and Deloitte. Unlike most disadvantaged children, these students are not taught to survive; they are taught to thrive.

I visited the school for several days after the conference, reuniting with students and teachers after seven years when I first became a partner. The young children have grown into impressive young adults, and there were over a hundred new smiling faces eager to interact with me. With several graduating classes having gone on to college and prosperous careers, Abraham asked me if I thought that a sense of entitlement may be setting in with the older students. I felt that it might be, so each evening I gathered all the high school students for a vibrant group dialogue.

Education is bigger than the individual

My overall message to them was simple: "Shanti Bhavan is bigger than all of us. It isn't about students, teachers, or a beautiful campus, and it hasn't provided you with a free education just so you can get a great job and buy a nice car and big screen TV. This is a movement, and you have a responsibility and opportunity to further its mission of eradicating poverty and improving the world." I asked them what they would do if the school shut its doors tomorrow, and explained that if any one of them were to revert back to village life, then Shanti Bhavan will have failed them and they will have failed Shanti Bhavan. They then debated how to further the "movement" and explored implementing the model into other existing schools, fundraising to start a new Shanti Bhavan, and more.

While their lifelong commitment need not focus entirely on sustaining the school, we discussed that they must always be working toward eliminating social injustices or solving environmental issues, which could even be as simple as buying solar panels for their homes rather than fancy cars. Collectively, they felt most passionate about eradicating corruption and the caste system, so we also talked about how as individuals we must "be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi). This was an exercise that they will never forget, and they were genuinely appreciative (see video).

I believe that everyone is entitled to a good education, but in reality, whether one receives it as a beneficiary of philanthropists or of taxpayers, education is a gift. Every student, regardless of country or wealth, should be taught to value it as such, and that it carries responsibilities and opportunities that are bigger than him or herself. I never had discussions like these as a student, but any school that aims to produce the leaders of tomorrow ought to be regularly asking each student, independent of grades or assignments, "How are you going to change the world?" The answer doesn't matter, but the thought process develops intellectual agility, strong character, and good values, which should be the priority of education.

Learn more about Shanti Bhavan

 

 

To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

Get Monthly Blog with News & Tour Dates

Opt-out anytime

To book a keynote, please contact: info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

The American Dream in the Middle East

It was an honor to give the keynote a few days ago to the Colorado Association of School Executives. I shared stories from last week's trip to Iraq and from the experience of working with my students from Mosul who endured the worst suffering under ISIS simply because they committed the crime of playing music. Their poignant journeys provided an opening for my keynote unlike any other I have given (if you didn't see my last blog post, let me know and I'll forward it to you). I'm still moved to tears each time I talk about them, and I will be telling their stories for a long time to come as an example of bravery, determination, and creativity in defeating fundamentalist ideology with music.

Dr. Jill Biden (former United States "Second Lady"/wife of Vice President Joe Biden) was the other keynote speaker. Both of us work with children in Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East, and we both come from political families that have shaped the world's most influential democracies. So, I gave her and Joe my grandmother's biography, We Nehrus—the inside story of my own family's fight for independence and how my great uncle, aunt, and cousin created and governed the world's largest democracy for over 40 years.

I typically do not discuss my family history in my presentations and didn't in Colorado. However, it had relevance to my Cultural Entrepreneurship students in Iraq last week and I think that it may also be important to my Syrian students this week in Lebanon—some of whom live amongst the rubble of Aleppo. The freedom to pursue one's passion is a distant concept in this part of the world, and harsh realities of the Middle East make an entrepreneurial mindset seem like naive idealism.

In order to earn my students' confidence, they needed to know that my own family fought for India's independence and were assassinated for their beliefs about the future of their country. This created a bridge between the students and me. While most of them do not believe that things can change in their country, they now realize that they will lose this defeatist argument with me.

As I tell them each day at our American Voices YES Academy Lebanon, "Things won't change by themselves. Someone has to 'be the change' (Gandhi), and that 'someone' may very well be one of you.

 

To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

Get Monthly Blog with News & Tour Dates

Opt-out anytime

To book a keynote, please contact: info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

Iraq: Gaining New Perspectives on Life

When I first announced my trip to Iraq, some questioned why I would ever go to such a place. While I knew intellectually that it would be a growth opportunity personally and professionally, I greatly underestimated just how life-changing it would be. As I now sit in beautiful Breckenridge Colorado to give the keynote for the Colorado Association of School Executives, I have new stories to tell that will enhance my message of educating for peace in a globalized world.

I taught cultural entrepreneurship to 150 Iraqis and Kurds last week, however, my special project was to work with four musicians from Mosul who over the past three years had been robbed, captured, and tortured by ISIS. Their crime was playing music, and execution was the standard punishment.

The timing could not have been more poignant since Mosul was liberated only days before I arrived. After they spent nine hours in 120 degree weather trying to cross a checkpoint in order to work with me, we shared stories, wrote incredible music together, laughed and cried, and hugged each other so tightly that there is no doubt that we will be great friends for life. I may be their teacher, but they taught me more than I could have imagined about values, courage, and life.

The depth of their suffering is only superseded by their ability to rise above it. These four young men—Ameen, Hakam, Khalid, and Mouhamad—are the bravest soldiers I know. They don't fight with guns or bombs to kill terrorists (people) who will simply resurface; they fight terrorism (ideology) with musical instruments by defying ISIS and inspiring others not to surrender to fundamentalism. Their ability to escape their fate yet still fight with music is a level of courage that I cannot fathom. True heroes.

They honored me with gifts that are hard for me to process. Ameen signed and dedicated to me his shirt that he wore the first time he played his violin atop the rubble of Yunus temple destroyed by ISIS, risking his life to make a point (google it...many news stories on him). Khalid, a professional barber, cut my hair—ISIS made it illegal to shave or get a haircut so he had no business for three years, but once ISIS was defeated, people cut their hair in both celebration and defiance symbolizing their newfound freedom. Hakam gave me a guitar-shaped key chain that almost got him killed until he convinced ISIS that it was a chicken leg and not a guitar. And Mouhamad, who was tortured by ISIS in ways that we have only seen blacked-out on TV news, gave me a beautiful journal in which he wrote in Arabic that our friendship is immortal.

Not only do they smile, laugh, and express so much love toward me, but they extend their hands to their neighbors, the Kurds, with whom there has and continues to be so much conflict (chemical attacks, fight for independence, battles over oil, etc.). Their open hearts enabled my Kurdish students to collaborate with them, and together they will all rise up as millennial musicians and "be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi).

Iraq is an incredibly complex country and it was profound to know each day that at any moment I could be killed by a car bomb or stray bullet (every Iraqi thinks about this constantly as it is part of life). However, in order to truly make a difference in the lives of others and gain a better understanding of the world in which we live, some risks are most definitely worth taking.


To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

Get Monthly Blog with News & Tour Dates

Opt-out anytime

To book a keynote, please contact: info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

Give the Gift of Empathy

As 2016 comes to a close and the holiday season is in full steam, one cannot help but reflect on a year that has us on a path of global uncertainty.  Terrorism and religious conflict preoccupies us, and waves of nationalism follow in its wake.  Globally, the election of Trump, vote for Brexit, and rise of anti-immigration movements seem to be dividing the world more than uniting it.

I had a fulfilling year giving keynotes to incredible audiences, mostly in education leadership.  Cultural divides was a recurring theme which I centered around my most rewarding project of 2016: I created a twelve day songwriting camp in Jakarta, Indonesia for Millennial singer-songwriters from ASEAN nations (Cambodia, Indonesia, Phillipines, etc.).  Sponsored by the US Department of State and in collaboration with American Voices YES Academy, I invited fifteen musically compatible participants who in some cases come from communities that are religiously and culturally incompatible.  My goal was to prove that music truly could transcend such volatile barriers, and we certainly did.  Using a combination of live workshops and my video course 1-2-3 Songwriting, we wrote twelve new songs, performed four high-profile concerts, and created sixteen new cross-cultural friendships that continue to this day to collaborate and compose new music together.  I plan to launch more of these programs globally in 2017.

There is nothing like the arts as a means to teach and foster empathy, and the Millennials and Gen Z are naturally inclined to collaborate across cultural barriers (religious, racial, and sexual identity).  Our job driven economy, fear driving politicians, and self-serving corporations continuously distract Baby Boomers and Silents from seeing what may very well be the true path to world peace.  If we can recognize this as individuals and think globally, every one of us can act locally to establish artistic forums for talented local multicultural youth to create art and co-exist harmoniously. It can be once a week or once a month, and it can take place at a community center, private home, school, or any non-denominational facility.  As American public education faces significant challenges from a new administration, we can assume that arts programs will become even less of a priority.  An absence of arts is an absence of empathy. What will you do about it?

This holiday season, give the gift of empathy by creating an opportunity for people to come together in artistic ways.

Teaching: Three “essentials” to increase student retention

How much am I willing to pay to live my dream? If it costs $6,000 to become a pilot (that is what I paid), it is only expensive if one is having a lousy time. If the experience is great, it’s a bargain.  The same is true in music, golf, cooking, or virtually any other activity.

So, what can all teachers do to increase student retention, especially among millennials?

#1 Certificate vs. Experience: Learning cannot be primarily the pursuit of a certificate or degree. Instead, the focus needs to be on the enjoyment and experience of each and every lesson. Most people take tennis lessons in order to enjoy the game, not to become Roger Federer.

#2 Cost vs. Value: Anything worth doing should be expensive enough to earn a commitment. The only way to offset the cost is to consistently provide value through a great experience. This means a professional operation (professionalism also communicates the sense of safety) with approachable but confident instructors and inspiring equipment. The price tag needs to work into a budget. The $6,000 I spent to become a pilot is equivalent to $500/month for one year. Many people pay more each month for their car. Imagine, a one year “car payment” to live a dream for a lifetime. All of a sudden, the value starts to make sense.

#3 “Anyone Can Do It” vs “You Can Do It”: I cringe every time I hear a teacher say “anyone can do it.” From a marketing point of view, “anyone can do it” is terribly short sighted. If I’m struggling and have been told that “anyone can do it,” my investment will soon feel expensive since I’m incapable of doing something that “anyone” can do. I’d rather be reinforced by hearing “you can do it.” A personal challenge is not a barrier to entry; it’s an incentive.

Please comment using the Blog Only feature (link at top) or Facebook App (below).

In case you missed it, here’s a clip from a recent lecture about how teachers can better relate to their students.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3DTPR_JRTE

Teaching Children Entrepreneurship

Teaching entrepreneurship at the grade school level is a great opportunity with a simple formula, yet difficult to implement in today’s society. Nurturing natural curiosity while allowing for boredom plants seeds of creativity which blossom into entrepreneurship. If left alone, the cycle is quite natural.

However, here in the US, schools are pressured by parental values to keep children busy—busy is equated with learning. This flaw in thinking should be obvious.  However, Baby-Boomers and Generation X’ers grew up in environments where you kept up with the Jones’ for social status and out-worked your boss (in hours, not productivity) for career advancement. Millennials are more open-minded and as parents, they will recognize that being busy doesn’t equal learning more.

As anything institutional continues to give way to activities that allow for individual expression, the freedom to explore one’s own mind should find renewed importance in our education systems.  Modern day classrooms must do three things to teach entrepreneurship and cultivate job creators of tomorrow: nurture talent, inspire curiosity, and provoke critical thinking.

Make me laugh and I’ll listen

Humor is the most powerful form of communication.  We all want to laugh, and we crave the next line that someone might deliver.

Major companies embrace the power of humor in their most important messages, which is often obvious in TV commercials. Airlines have turned safety announcements into comedy routines and politicians are pulling out the punch lines.

The success of educating lies in the art of entertaining.  Developing a sense of humor will help anyone sell anything.