What can vulnerability teach us about the future of work? – Special Guest Writer: Monica Parker

(Article Published on Thornburg Pediatrics Blog with the generous permission of Monica Parker)

 

Alongside technological advances, our society is changing rapidly. What do those changes mean for the future of work? Hatch Analytics founder Monica Parker has some idea.

Fun fact: we’re only born afraid of two things – loud noises and falling. Sort of strange, when you think of it. But, in truth, our brains at birth are something of a tabula rasa. A blank slate. Some scientists posit that we aren’t even born knowing how to love, that circuitry only being triggered in our limbic system by our mother’s first caress. But, from those first crying breaths, we know our brains begin to learn. And much of what we learn is what to fear.

Fast forward to adulthood and we fear so much. Deepest set among those fears is the fear of change.

When futurists pull out their crystal ball and talk about the future of work, I find much of the discussion to be doom and gloom. ‘Our world is becoming increasingly chaotic’, they say. It’s more volatile. Uncertainty reigns supreme. In fact, we can never really ‘know’ anything, as increasing ambiguity gives life to everything from fake news to alternative facts. These elements have become known as the VUCA world – a world that is more volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous.

It was the US Army War College that coined the term, and management consultancies were fast to pick it up. Why the US Army may prefer a fear-based worldview is perhaps best left to a whiskey-fuelled debate, but I imagine it’s not a stretch to see why management consultancies are also all too happy to perpetuate it. (No doubt an excellent rationale for needing their services.)

With the development of this innocuous acronym, and folks all too willing to socialize it, we’re all meant to feel less safe and more overwhelmed by change spiraling out of our control.

Much of the artificial intelligence (AI) and automation debate seems to play into this VUCA mindset. Google headlines about AI and you’ll see the likes of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steven Hawking warning us of the impending AI apocalypse.  My response? Don’t believe the hype.

For starters, I think it’s an inherently negative world view, but also, I just don’t think it’s accurate. Don’t get me wrong – there is no doubt the pace of change is greater, maybe even unprecedented, but the assumption that it will lead to the end of days seems unfounded.

Technology and automation have been drivers for change for centuries. The language being used today to describe the future of automation and AI is strikingly similar to that used 100 years ago. (Socrates even objected to the new-fangled invention of his time – writing – claiming it would damage memory and fail to impart information with sufficient depth.)

In fact, 85pc of the jobs held in 1900 no longer existed in 2000. And this trend will certainly continue. 65pc of kindergarten-aged kids will work in jobs that haven’t been invented yet, and a kid that age will have 16 jobs in nine industries over the course of their life. In the OECD, 70pc of young people will enter the labour market in jobs that will be lost to automation in the next 10 to 15 years.

When I hear stats like these, I can’t help but think ‘skills gap’. But if the jobs haven’t been invented yet, what skills do we train them for?

Some would say coding. But do they need to code? I don’t think so. I’ll date myself by saying I did not understand how to program my VCR 10 years ago, and now my TV does it for me. They say computers will be coding themselves in a decade. What I believe is that it’s not the technical skills we need to be preparing people for. Rather, it’s the very skills that make us more human.

The skill we most need? Change management. And I’m not talking about that burning platform, quick wins, top-down rubbish. I’m talking about change management that helps us withstand the sort of big, fat, hairy existential change that transforms people, planets, systems. Because, just in the same way ‘business as usual’ working models aren’t sufficient to face a world of rapid transformation, neither will the old models of change.

So, I have a different, more positive VUCA world I want us to live in. My VUCA is one where we cultivate the change management skills of vulnerability, unlearning, curiosity and awe.

Vulnerability

If kids are going to have 16 jobs in nine industries – some of those job changes coming involuntarily – they’re going to need to be resilient. Now, the word resiliency has a few different connotations, several of which mean tough or impenetrable. But, if you’ve seen Brené Brown’s TED talk, you know that the single biggest contributing factor towards resiliency is vulnerability. Regrettably, vulnerability is not a quality particularly honoured in the corporate world. And certainly not in the male world, where suicide is the biggest killer of young men under the age of 35. Cultivating a culture of vulnerability will help us manage intense change.

Unlearning

This one might sound odd, but even Yoda said ‘you must unlearn what you have learned’. So what did he mean by that? He means that some of the knowledge you ‘know’ to be true may not be true, and could be blocking your vision to new thinking. Galileo helped us unlearn that the world was flat. What other flat-earth ‘truths’ might be obstructing our ability to change our perspective?

Curiosity

Did you know that curiosity actually changes the chemistry of your brain? In a 2014 study from UC Davis, when participants were shown questions that interested them, parts of their brains associated with dopamine release became active. But what’s really interesting is that when people were shown the answers, their hippocampus was triggered, which allowed for the information to be embedded in long-term memory. This means that cultivating a sense of curiosity will help us process and embed greater amounts of information more quickly. Look no further than to Leonardo da Vinci, so convinced with the curiosity and dream of flight that he talked of tasting it. Curiosity unlocks not just adaptability and learning, but hope.

Awe

Scientists at UC Berkeley say that awe is the most profoundly beneficial emotion from a physical and psychological sense. People who regularly experience awe have greater humility, curiosity, innovation, happiness and desire to contribute to the world. And yet, from Hatch Analytics research, we know that 71pc of people don’t even take time out of their workday for fear of being seen as skiving. If people can’t take time from their workday to even think, how can they ever cultivate a goosebump-inducing sense of awe?

Look, I’m not as clever as Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Steven Hawking, so I’ll choose to selectively follow them. While Hawking did say he believed AI could be the end of humanity, he also said that AI is a magnifier. And that, as a tool created by humans to solve human problems, AI could act as a magnifier to all good human intention.

I love that image.

Rather than give in to the very old-fashioned notion of an apocalyptic technology scenario, let’s imagine a world where a quality such as vulnerability is revered and cultivated. A world where our sacred cows can be slayed in the name of adaptive thinking. A world where the altar to the cult of overwork crumbles under the weight of curiosity and awe. A world where we trade our fear of falling with our dream of flying.

That’s my future of work, and I’m sticking with it.

When Meeting a Friend, Wash Your Eyes

 

In Confucian tradition, when a friend has journeyed to see you it is dignified to wash your eyes before receiving him, or her. Don’t get it, neither did I when I first heard it. Yet I do it every day now.

Washing our eyes symbolizes the importance of cleansing our prejudices and preconceptions in order to stand ready to see someone anew. We can then allow a person to change more freely and continue on their own journey of growth. We can also prevent static thinking that locks down the relationship while encouraging true listening and attentiveness.

I was searching for an angle on a human needs article as I pondered the importance of honoring another person on their journey in life when a friend who is a professional therapist stopped by to chat. I asked for her suggestions. Apparently, I needed to wash my eyes to see myself anew. I had writer’s block.

We talked of the ever growing understanding of emotional capacity as portrayed by a recent BBC documentary, “A Spy in the Wild.”  The producers planted life-like animatronic animals within groups of the same species in their natural habitat. I’ll cut straight to the highlight of the show. A troop of monkeys welcomed their new robotic kin into the social group with customary grooming and playfulness, but when a mischievous young member dropped the robot from a great height something unbelievable happened. The entire tribe fell silent, showed a sense of respect for the loss of a member, and grieved for the fallen.

Connection, mutuality and physical and emotional safety are fundamental needs of all people. We need one another. We want one another. The question is how can we make life wonderful for others and ourselves and not proverbially drop a companion off a tree?

The therapist friend and I spoke of the innate emotional depth of humans. Our similarities and differences and how to bridge the gap to a loving connection.

She pointed out that though we are 7 billion unique realities unfolding we have some fundamental similarities like grief and loss, joy and happiness. She attributed patience, tolerance, and empathy as evolutionary values to overcome our differences. We use feelings to help tell us if our needs are being met and collectively use needs to express the beauty of the human experience.

She recounted a story of her son when he was his former 5yr old self. He came home from kindergarten engaged to a little girl. The young son was as happy and joyous as any man who belonged to someone. He felt “belonged.” A day later this “little harlotte” (her words, not mine) was engaged to a new boy. Her son felt a depth of loss and grief previously unimagined.

The young therapist learned two things that have remained with her throughout her career. First, she could not believe emotions like these could be experienced by one so young. Second, the little harlotte was trying to satisfy her need for connection with others like anyone else. Though, her strategy may have been unique.

This is when we circled back to this concept of washing our eyes.  She said that we need to wash our eyes every day when we see our children because we just don’t know when it’s been the worst day of their lives, if they lost a friend, were abused, or have looked into the abyss of human sorrow. The same goes for partners, parents, siblings, and friends. When we do not wash our eyes we either miss the change that is occurring in them, or we are not giving them the room they need to grow. So, I encourage you to look at your loved ones from fresh eyes with a clean slate, engage them in some friendly argument, challenge them, but in the end allow them to express who they are for the first time, each time.

Raising a Minimalist

If traveling has taught me one thing it is that happiness is resilient and not dependent on things.  I have seen music and song, laughter and smiles blooming from the most modest of circumstances.  Mothering.com struck a chord in me with “Why I’m Raising a Minimalist” by Sherri Vettel.  Vettel’s message is of self-sufficiency and finding a freedom to focus on what is important in life.

Link to Original Article

Why I am Raising a Minimalist

Our writer explains why she's teaching her children minimalism. While I do not live a completely minimalist lifestyle, there is a certain freedom that I have come to associate with it, a freedom I wish to share with my son.

It’s a freedom to live without superfluous stuff weighing me down; freedom from meaningless items and monotony; freedom to find a passion and a purpose; freedom to focus on what really matters in my life.

Several months ago my family and I were handed a blessing in disguise. We found we needed to make several lifestyle changes and evaluate what we really wanted out of life. My initial reaction was to think about all the stuff that I would have to let go of. My husband, a true minimalist at heart, quickly convinced me otherwise.

Within a few months, we had a pond for an aquaponics venture in our backyard, a nearly constructed chicken coop and more time together as a family — all of which were dreams we had deferred. We now have a plan to start living with less, while opening ourselves up to a fresh way of sorting our day-to-day lives.

Minimalism is defined as “a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise.”

Here’s why I want to raise my son as a minimalist:

1. I want my son to be self-sufficient.

Between the high price tag of wholesome, organic food and the rising cost of living expenses, we decided self-sufficiency is key.

We are slowly teaching our son how to grow and prepare his own food.  He worked on a farm, planted his own seeds and harvested homegrown vegetables. He is watching his father build, create and plan for a better life for ourselves and our community. Our investment in these principles is an investment in his future. He will need less if he has the freedom to do more.

2. I want him to have a zest for life, not money.

Is life worth working 40+ hours a week for a little extra spending money? What lifestyle changes can be made to consume less? I believe self-sufficiency is one answer — if you can do something for yourself, you may not have to pay someone else to do it for you.

Changing my beliefs about money has served as a starting point for me. I began thinking about the money that I spent as energy. Before I purchase anything I ask myself: “Is this where I want my energy to go? Will this purchase help us fulfill our life journey and what we believe in?”

Because of this thinking pattern, my purchases have been wiser. We are working less and have saved money, even though we are paying higher prices for what we value (buying goods from a small business owner may be more expensive, but we no longer spend money on things that are not meaningful).

I hope that teaching my son to appreciate money in this way will help him avoid buying into consumerism and allow him to find financial freedom at a younger age. This freedom will ideally give him a zest for life and going after what he really sees as his purpose.

3. I want him to collect memories, not things.

When I reflect on my childhood, I value the experiences that I had, not the toys that I got to play with. I hope my son will do the same.

I want my son to collect so many memories that he is bursting at the seams with them! He will be the best person that he can be because he tasted new experiences, gained fresh perspectives and stepped outside of his comfort zone a time or two.

To honor this, we are choosing to gift him with these experiences instead of flashy toys. In lieu of gifts, we spend his birthday on an adventure of his choosing. Instead of requesting birthday party presents we encourage donations to a local charity or non-profit. Two Christmases ago we saved for months, and instead of blowing the budget on “things,” we gave him his first passport stamp and went to Costa Rica (he still talks about it even though he was less than two!).

My son has a minimal amount of toys and he is happy. He finds delight in nature and is perfectly content to throw rocks in a pond, make mandalas out of leaves, splash in mud puddles and hike for miles. I have fewer trinkets to organize and he has more opportunity to use his imagination.

Getting rid of the extra toys can be quite freeing too!

4. I want him to appreciate the people in his life.

I am awakened to the fact that in the past I often appreciated ‘things.’ I worked harder for better grades and more money than I did for the people who really mattered in my life. There is no comparison between things and loved ones. Loving people and loving yourself is worth more than all of the material things in the world. I hope my son always remembers this.

John Green summed it up nicely: “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.”

Photo credit: Philippe Put 

Mother’s Day Monday | A Special Guest Feature by Becky Kimbell

Monday morning. I lurch out of bed late; brew much-needed coffee as I hurriedly attempt to create lunches that will pass the muster of Martha Stewart, Michelle Obama, and oh, yes, my kids; change my kale omelet idea to plain toaster waffles and a juice box in the car; and race to school hoping that I don’t encounter stop lights or radar. The kids run in the school door on time (barely). I breathe, enjoying the drive home in sacred silence. Then I walk through the door and remember with dread: yesterday was Mother’s Day.

In our home Mother’s Day ranks up there with Christmas or birthdays in excitement for the kids. That’s right…the kids. Homemade table decor, party lights, adorable cards, gorgeous fragrant blossoms adorning the breakfast table with a feast prepared for a queen. Right? Almost.

As I walked through the door this fateful Mother’s Day Monday a few years ago, I was greeted with the lingering aroma of scorched eggs and burnt toast. Paper clippings, open glue bottles, puddles of glitter and kiddie scissors remained on the table in the den. Wrapping paper and ribbon spilled out of boxes in the basement. It hit me. Is Mother’s Day really about being a mother? As I began cleaning up the mess in the silence of my own company, I of course felt guilty. Guilty that I selfishly wished I could have just gone away on my own. Guilty that I grumbled to myself about petty things like wasted glue bottles and baked-on glitter left over from creating the treasures my children had proudly presented to me the day before. Guilty that I felt encumbered to now have to prominently incorporate a paper mache penguin into our living room décor. A friend had displayed her children’s creative output in a manner suggesting she had hired a museum curator. Why couldn’t I honor my children in the same way? Surely I would rue the day I underappreciated their talents.

Motherhood and self-doubt go hand-in-hand, as do motherhood and self-reproach. No matter how hard we try, how much we seem to accomplish in a day, or how compassionate, smart, and fit our children are, someone always seems to do it better. We kick ourselves when we don’t measure up to what we feel is the ideal mother – often falsely finding this ideal in each other and competing to reign supreme. It is an endless destructive cycle that makes us all feel terrible at one time or another. Self-criticism is not written in our DNA, and fulfilling our needs and desires is not selfish or unmotherly.

Our kids grow up so fast; mine are now in high school. This year on Mother’s Day Monday I scooped up a nothing but a few Amazon boxes, eyeing with nostalgia the untouched glitter tubes and the brand new glue bottles that at some point I purchased to replace the dried out relics from Mother’s Days past. I felt a different pang of guilt, now centered around the should-haves. We should have used this glue together to make some sort of abstract masterpiece. I should have shown more admiration of their creative talents. I should have framed every piece of their artwork since pre-K and turned our home into a family art museum to build their self-esteem. Long ago I committed to remove “should have” from my vocabulary, yet at this moment it struck me that there is one critical area of second-guessing that remains in my life: motherhood.

There are about 2 billion mothers in the world. We all need to take a few collective cleansing breathes and agree to give ourselves a break. Wherever we are in our parenting journey, we need to stop to collect ourselves. Stop feeling guilty. Stop being rushed. Stop worrying that our friends are better mothers that we are. Stop using our children as pawns in an endless and fruitless pursuit to win the game of motherhood that has been going on for generations. In our own kids’ eyes, we are always the winners.

Just two years remain before my first fledgling leaves the nest. Though I long for the days of pudgy arms and finger paint, I delight every day in the bigger, lasting rewards of seeing my children grow strong, confident and self-reliant. I realize now that how I treat myself is more important than how I treat their artwork. This Mother’s Day Monday I made a commitment to give myself a break. To show my kids the importance of self-forgiveness. To model mindfulness – literally stopping to smell the roses like we used to when they were toddlers. Happy moms don’t just make happy kids. Happy moms also make future happy moms by showing the next generation a happier, more balanced picture of motherhood.

Children Caffeinated: What are safe limits for kids?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tragedy struck on April 26th when a teenager died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event after drinking three caffeinated drinks.  The article can be found here.

What are Caffeine Safe Limits for Children?

Children’s brains are developing and their bodies are growing so limiting caffeine is recommended.

Sleep is vitally important for a child’s developing brain. Since caffeine can interfere with sleep, it should be avoided.

Caffeine should be treated as any other drug and used with caution until a person understands how it interacts with his/her particular genetic make-up and health profile.  It’s also important to understand that a person’s safe limit of caffeine can change over time as a person’s health evolves over his/her lifetime.

Ages 12 and Under

Caffeine isn’t recommended for children under 12.

I may recommend caffeine for children diagnosed with ADHD, but generally, there really is no reason for children under 12 to consume caffeine.

For children 4 or older an occasional caffeinated soda or chocolate treat will likely pose no concern and around 45mg per day is recognized as a safe amount, but caffeine shouldn’t be a daily part of a child’s diet.

Ages 13-18

Teens are still developing and need 8-9 hours of sleep a night.  They should consume no more than 100mg of caffeine daily.

This is equivalent to about:

  • 1.3 shots of espresso
  • 1.25 8 fl.oz. Red Bulls
  • .5 of a 5 Hour Energy Shot
  • .6 of a 16 fl.oz. can of Monster Energy Drink
  • .2 of a Starbucks Venti brewed coffee
  • 3 12 fl.oz. Cokes