Reaching Beyond Rigor

Reaching Beyond Rigor

In the words of USA Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin: “True merit consists of an inclination and ability to serve mankind, and this merit can only be acquired or significantly increased through true learning. This should be the great aim and end of all learning.”

Franklin’s ideology resonates with my view of a “holistic education”--one that is based on the tenet that people find their identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, nature, and humanitarian values such as kindness and peace.  Most schools recognize the importance of this and adopt a holistic or “whole child” education philosophy, but are they executing it effectively, and is it even possible for a school to achieve this alone?

The philosophy of Wenlock School in Santiago, Chile, resonates with me (their students participated in last week’s Ravi Unites Schools Real-time Audio-Video Interaction...see video). Its fundamental principle is that parents are the first educators of their children and the school is a collaborator in this task. Indeed, my influences outside of school (including family) were the most significant contributors to my becoming educated. Leaving time for life lessons rather than elongating school days and scheduling school-related activities on weekends is essential to comprehensively educate a child.

Every educator must consider whether he or she is most effectively helping students to develop the necessary “inclination and ability” to serve themselves and the broader global community.

Busier and Longer Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

I encounter many school schedules and environments that leave me wondering if students have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The structure, demands, and wide array of school day and extracurricular offerings may actually have unintended consequences by forcing students into silos, restricting the release of creativity, and inhibiting their overall development. Consider this: can too many choices for students lead to adults who are only able to choose from opportunities presented to them rather than to create opportunities themselves?  This may be the difference between followers and leaders, and employees and entrepreneurs.

To properly prepare the next generation to pivot with a growth mindset in a rapidly changing society and job market, I believe that education systems must consider:

  • Reducing the demands and time commitment of the total school day, including extracurricular activities and homework
  • Limiting school related activities on weekends to create more opportunities for family time
  • Allowing for “downtime” and even boredom to foster creativity and inspire students to create choices rather than choose from them.

Family Time Plays a Key Role in Holistic Learning

This brings us to family time. With busier school days, lots of homework, and weekend school-related activities, school-related education takes up nearly all of the students’ (and parents’) time. If we are to achieve holistic education, children must have more time with their families for these reasons:

  • Family gives children a lifelong sense of belonging: Schools offer no shortage of opportunities for students to grow their identity through school pride: sports teams, mascots, school motto, etc.  However, students eventually graduate from school but remain part of their families for life. Identity should not be so tightly tied to transient experiences, as that can foster loneliness and disaffection.
  • To learn important life lessons: As already mentioned, the most important life lessons come from outside the classroom. Many of these lessons come during family time, including acquiring the coveted soft skills.
  • To learn the value of family: Family is more than blood relations. It is also a set of values and skills that lead to a more collaborative work and societal environment. Sufficient family time is the greatest opportunity to instill these values in our children (there are of course exceptions with dysfunctional families, and that must be considered on case-by-case basis).

Education Is What Remains After You Forget Everything You Were Taught

Authors Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg, in their book; Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track, poke holes in the current education system saying that it is time that we accept that nothing worth learning can actually be taught. Perhaps that is true, and many incorrectly assume that for every ounce of teaching, there is an ounce of learning. As I say in my keynotes, “Education is what remains after you forget everything you were taught.”  If we spend school time focused on teaching students learning strategies and techniques and then give them the free time to implement them on their own, make mistakes, become bored, and muddle their way out of obstacles (often self imposed), they will become lifelong learners.

How can we create more holistic education system?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please comment below and let me know.

What Do You Have to Lose? The Value of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

What Do You Have to Lose? The Value of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone


My father went against conventional wisdom by frequently encouraging me to live just beyond my means. He believed that by doing so, it forced me to try harder, go further, and expand my comfort zone step-by-step.  

The “comfort zone” as defined by LifeHacker, is “a behavioral space where our activities and behaviors fit a routine pattern that minimizes risk and reduces stress.”  The comfort zone has been termed a killer of dreams by some experts and identified by others as the main reason many people never live to taste true success. It is the antithesis of a growth mindset. Although the zone can reward you with some happiness and reduced anxiety, it has been shown that staying cozy within your comfort zone ultimately reduces creativity, limits vision, and stunts growth.

Benefits of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Despite the “at home” feeling we get in the comfort zone, life gets way more exciting when you decide to explore the world beyond those boundaries. Having a growth mindset is central to innovation. The following are three key ways you will benefit;

You Become More Productive

Comfort is the antithesis of productivity and growth as it causes us to be satisfied with the status quo. You won’t strive to accomplish more because you can survive on what you have. You will also feign “busy” as a way of justifying your current outputs. Pushing yourself out of the comfort zone inspires you to want more and therefore work harder and smarter to increase your output, along the lines of what my father was trying to teach me.  By taking more risks we develop a higher risk tolerance over time and thus increase our capacity and productivity.

It Helps You Deal With Change

In a recent New York Times article University of Houston Professor Brene Brown explains that the worst thing we can do in life is pretend that fear and uncertainty don’t exist, because they do - and we experience them every day. Learning to live outside your comfort zone is one of the best ways to prepare for unexpected changes in life.  If you have a higher capacity for readiness to accept change, which being outside one’s comfort zone helps foster, then when forced change happens you have the fortitude to deal with it in a positive way.

You Get To Harness Your Creativity

Creativity is innately risky, but also tremendously worthwhile. When you share your creativity with others, you’re opening up to vulnerability and possible rejection. Yet there is a silver lining! The same risk-taking increases the possibility of great creative achievement, including creating opportunities where you may not have achieved otherwise. Like Forbes contributor Steve Kotler once said; “Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often.”  Stepping out of your comfort zone boosts self confidence, improves quality of life, and allows us to learn more about ourselves.

It is Not an Easy Task

Getting out of your comfort zone is easier said than done. The main reason for this is that humans are creatures of comfort. We are wired to seek comfort. Therefore, when you finally reach a mental state where you feel comfortable, leaving that place becomes a fight.

Another reason leaving the comfort zone is never easy is the fear of failure and possible rejection. What if you take a big risk and fail? Will you lose your credibility and perhaps even a few friends? Always ask yourself, “What do I have to lose?”You will find more often than not that you have very little to lose, but so much to gain.

Finally, leaving your comfort zone is also difficult because of the way our brains work. The famous Yerkes-Dodson Law shows that our brains can only be pushed up to a certain limit, beyond which performance drops. In most cases, after performance drops, the brain works out that the risk isn’t worth it anymore, forcing us to reset to – our comfort zones.  

Steps to Successfully Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

There are at least two key types of comfort zones, including habits of thinking and habits of acting.  Awareness is key in moving beyond the comfort zone, but action is also key. Here’s a primer on how to successfully get out of your comfort zone and focus on a growth mindset:

  1. Start small:  Begin with small steps. By changing just a small part of your daily routines, you can slowly learn to get outside your comfort zone. This can be as simple as changing the order in which you do things in the morning, and then asking yourself what, if any, result it produced.
  2. Help others:  Find situations that you can proactively resolve for other people. This exercise helps you move beyond your habits of thinking and acting by entering someone else’s world.  It will also strengthen your sense of empathy, which will undoubtedly make your actions outside of your comfort zone more impactful and rewarding.
  3. Find a mentor:  A mentor is someone whom you want to emulate in life. They can also be directly involved in your life and give you feedback.  Following their success path can help you overcome some fears and latent comforts that hold you back from growing. For me, Sir Richard Branson has always been a role model in terms of taking calculated risks and expanding one’s comfort zone.

If you’re up for the journey, why not begin today? It takes effort and steps of faith, but it is definitely possible.  


New Growth Mindset Keynote Topic

Ravi has developed and launched a new keynote in the growth mindset arena titled, “What Do You Have to Lose? Step Out of Your Comfort Zone”.  Based on the core belief that the future requires a growth mindset, this motivating keynote focuses on the value of developing a tolerance for risk.  

Ravi uses his compelling journey to showcase how lifelong learning leads to success.  

Read more about the keynote here…


Education Leadership Results Are In On the Future of Multiplayer Online Gaming

This past June we published a blog post entitled, “Can time spent playing online games help teens develop cultural competency?”  The post detailed shared interests between students in India and the United States, including multiplayer online gaming.  The blog invited education leaders to weigh in on this global teen phenomenon, and results are in from our quick survey, Digital Priorities and the Future of Multiplayer Online Gaming.

While only 25% of the professionals and educators responded that they participate in online gaming themselves, 58% believe that multiplayer online gaming is a good activity for young people. Educators appear willing to recognize that the level of engagement students demonstrate when involved with multiplayer online games is worth noting and perhaps channeling for positive impact.  One educator reflected that “The content of the experience/activity is of concern, [but] I believe the problem solving, creative thinking and language skill development can provide greater relevance and purpose for young adult learner, which may lead to enhancing their growth and development in technology-rich environments.”  

Interestingly, that same number feel that multiplayer online gaming could provide an even greater interaction, and thus educational opportunity, than a structured Skype conversation (such as the one offered by Ravi Unites Schools). “A deep established relationship could occur,” says one administrator, “however I believe to work it might need teacher interaction, reviewed or completed during schooling hours.   I think it is such a perfect way to reach kids where there are, because that is where the real learning takes place.”

When asked whether multiplayer online gaming could have a useful place in the classroom experience, educators did not hold back their views.  In addition to encouraging social collaboration and teamwork, problem solving skills, creativity, and an opportunity to share common interests, multiplayer online games could be used as an assessment tool -- a ‘gamification’ of assessment, as one participant called it. More expressed caution, including one who indicated “if there is a way to assess the educational impact on a student's learning, then yes. [However] those that are combative and foster unhealthy competitiveness and agitation can impact the child's entire day.”

Survey respondents felt there is potential for this type of gaming to increase cross-cultural competency. Beyond the 75% that responded affirmatively, those that responded with a specific reply felt that it depended on the game, content, and purpose.

The general consensus was that online gaming does have potential to be used for education purposes and increasing cross-cultural competency, and those responding indicated a trend towards seeking out an educational multiplayer online game for the students in their schools and classrooms to play.

The results were very interesting and trended towards favoring the involvement of multiplayer online games.  The survey gave us a window into the minds of educational professionals in the classroom and within administration positions.  

Here’s a link to the first blog post on multiplayer online gaming. What do you think about the survey results and potential for online gaming to be a valuable educational tool and method to increase cross-cultural competency?  Please feel free to respond with your comments.