June 13, 2013 at 5:58 am, by
For the past 15 years or more, I have been speaking about the signs of change in our culture. Often, these changes are innocuous enough that they are merely examples of how all of history morphs and shifts over time. However, at other times, what is being proposed or extolled is evidence of deeper shifts. I have written about many of those, including the attack on private property, the concerns about money shifting to non-physical, and many concerns about education.
Just last year, reflecting back to 4 years before, I wrote a three-part series about my concerns related to technology. In one of those posts, I wrote this:
The real issue is that the likelihood is great that all money supply can be controlled by a few simple clicks of a computer. If it can be done, then it will be done. Now spin that even darker…imagine a world where you HAVE to have a certain smartphone or all purchases MUST be made through the NFC [Near Field Communication] that Fast Company loves.
Not a pretty picture from where I sit. Sure, I know that some of you can see the Christian “Anti-Christ” mark of the beast issue. That is possible–I have warned about that too related to technology, as far back as the late 1990s, long before the term “smartphone” was ever uttered. Yet, I am not raising the specter here (at least not yet). All I am saying that it is easily possible to see a near-future where the government could declare quite easily that all purchasing must be done via this one certain way, and that all other options (your actual credit card, cash, even bartering) were illegal.
But, there are more and more troubling signs, signs that that should no longer be ignored. Just last week came the troubling revelations that the government under President Obama have gone even deeper in their spying and tracking citizens. While I don’t think the tracking came only on phones, the link is there. We must wake up, yet so many still seem asleep to the danger.
I follow a wonderful blog written by two French tech gurus, who also have a long history with the media industry (print, newspapers).
So, this post was reporting on the recent tech event, D11, the Wall Street Journal’s big tech event.
In the post was this paragraph, about the Motorola presentation at D11:
Just as interesting, if a bit troubling, Regina Dugan gave us insights into individual identification research work at Motorola. She proudly displayed a tattoo on her forearm that incorporates an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) antenna that lets you log onto services without the usual annoyances. Or you can swallow an “authentication” pill that’s powered by digestive acids. As Dugan puts it, “your entire body becomes your authentication token.” Hmmm… A tattoo on one’s forearm, a pill that emits an ID signal that you can’t turn off (for a while)…
Since I have been warning you and others about the possible implications of RFID and NFC (Near Field Communication), the end of paper money and other issues related to tech and privacy….this doesn’t surprise me. But, that people like this blogger note the issue and imply his own concern….well that is noteworthy. I wonder if he is more troubled by the religious implications he hints at with the tattoo, or the fact that the Senior VP was proud of her RFID tattoo (or maybe that she was clearly nonplussed with the idea that she now can be tracked easily for the rest of her life (or as long as she keeps the tattoo on her arm).
Not a pretty picture, I know. What can you do? Well, my advice from last year still holds true today:
There is a way, though, for you. Fight back. If you own a phone, don’t slide down the road to accept NFC type technology. If its just on your phone, don’t use it. Maintain an active control on your own cash. Don’t allow location aware apps to work, or not all the time. Don’t check in with something like Foursquare or Facebook (more on that nightmare in a later post).
For now, just remember you heard it here first. Thus, when your favorite politician starts talking about some sort of method to “keep us safe” through the new national smartphone (free of course, just to make you happy), realize they aren’t really trying to merely keep you safe, but safely keep you where they want you.
June 11, 2013 at 5:24 am, by
Think culture isn’t changing? Take a look at today’s teen/young adult, those born between 2000 and 1993 (the middle cohorts of the Millennial Generation [1984/85 - 2004/05]), through the lens of various data points. Below you will see various data info points from various research agencies along with my commentary on the data.
From Pew Research
- 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
- 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
- 95% of teens use the internet.
- 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
- 80% of teens have their OWN desktop or laptop computer.
Technology is omnipresent. Period. It is not going away. There is no “digital divide” at least not in terms of who does and who does not have a computer. At best, there is a slight divide between those who have their OWN PRIVATE computer and one they have to share with others. Almost one in four (23%) have a tablet, a growing number in the few years since the iPad came out, and indicates teens actually have multiple access points to the Internet (many have not only a way to access the Internet via a phone, a computer and a tablet, but also other devices like an iPod, mobile gaming devices like Nintendo’s DS, Internet enabled TVs or Blu-ray player and finally through gaming systems like X-box or Playstation). However, this lack of digital divide does not indicate true comfort or user activity online; the real divide lays there between those who merely use their devices to reach Facebook and others who know many of the core basic ideas of technology usage.
Readwrite.com article, based also on Pew Research
- Among teens with a smartphone, however, 50% access the Internet primarily via the mobile device.
- 74% of teens ages 12-17 are “mobile internet users” who say they access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at least occasionally
- Girls are more likely than boys to rely on their smartphone as their primary Internet access device.
This data continues the information from the previous data that Pew showed. Here we see that Internet usage no longer is a stable proposition, something done in a “place” (work, home, school). Now it is mobile. I have always thought the term “smartphone” was a silly term. What people are buying is a mini-computer that happens to have an application that allows for voice talk (and probably a few different such options). The “phone” is merely an underused tool of the mini-computer, especially among teens. However, having a computer that you can put into your pocket means that access is everywhere, all the time. For professors and parents, this demands a massive shift in what has been done with computers and/or to limit Internet access. This shift will be difficult since, according to Pew, less than 34% of adults over age 50 own a smartphone (37% of teens plus 66% of young adults 18-29 own a smartphone).
U-M Transportation Research Institute Teens getting driver’s License declines:
Here is some of the data for 17-year-olds:
• 1983 – 69% had their licenses
• 2008 – 50% had their licenses
• 2010 – 46% had their license
This is perhaps the most stunning piece of information, though I did hear something similar earlier in the 2000s. The bottom line is that teens either see no real good reason to get a license, parents have decided all the info about dangerous teen driving is true, or teens believe that the idea of “self freedom” no longer demands a set of wheels. Perhaps it is all three, but I would put my money on the last one. The idea of getting your license “back in the day” was almost totally connected to finally achieving a freedom from the parents. Now I could drive myself to school or to see friends. My parents were actually excited that I could drive as now they wouldn’t have to come to the high school to pick me up late after basketball games, and I could drive myself to youth group and church choir practice. Today’s teen finds that sense of freedom and connection from the Internet.
The article linked above from U of M shows that back in 1983, about 87 percent of 19-year-olds, 80 percent of 18-year-olds and 69 percent of 17-year-olds owned a driver’s license. I was one of the 87% of 19 year olds. Twenty-five years later in 2008, the percentages were 75, 65 and 50, respectively. The almost 20% drop among 17 year olds is perhaps the more startling. In 2010, those numbers plummeted even more: about 70 percent of 19-year-olds, 61 percent of 18-year-olds and 46 percent of 17-year-olds had a driver’s license. While this shows that as young drivers age, they do get their licenses (so in 2008, 50% of 17 year olds had it, two years later that had risen to 70%) that still means 17% less 19 year olds had a license than in 1983.
Pew yet again
Text messaging has become the primary way that teens reach their friends, surpassing face-to-face contact, email, instant messaging and voice calling as the go-to daily communication tool for this age group.
I first saw this information in a recent Wired article about the current 20 years olds (those born in 1993, the same year the magazine came out). As you can see, less than 40% of teens use their phones for the point…for actually phoning someone to talk them. They will call their parents (or more likely their parents call them), but the communication tool most used is texting. And at the bottom, the least used way of communication? Email. This fact is more disturbing than the phone info, especially for industries like “Higher Education” who think they are being “cutting edge” because they provide students with a school email.
Worse, this bodes ill when a large percentage of older adults 65 or older never go online at all (48% according to Pew) and only 77% of 50-64 do so. 77% seems high till it is compared to the 95% of 18-29 and teens. A very large majority of professors and upper administrators are in that 50-older category. They are the ones making the determination about connection with students.
There is obviously more to be mined from this data. I will write more later about the Wired article, but for now, just see this data as key information for understanding the changing, shifting culture in which we live. There is no going back. We are on their planet now. Get used to it.
June 6, 2013 at 5:21 am, by
As I was driving around town, have you noticed the death of the turn signal? Perhaps I am just now coming to see this…maybe in your mind this habit died some years ago. To me, though, here in Central Florida it feels like just in the past 18-36 months, there has been a noticeable change. More and more people drive on our streets and rarely use the turn signal on their vehicle. Whether it is changing lanes or even making an actual turn, few drivers use them. Perhaps it doesn’t matter how long its been going on….though my noticing it matches other concerns I have with cultural change that has appeared in the past 5 years. But what does the decline of the turn signal mean?
There are at least 3 implications or meanings behind the death of the turn signal, and all of them signal a troubling trend (“signal”—see what I did there?). The first major implication is the change, or some would say loss, of communication among humans. I don’t know that I would call it the “death of communication” because at another level, through social media and mobile computing, people have an ability to communicate in more instantaneous ways than ever in human history. But, even with this, it seems as if more and more people has worse communication habits than ever. At the same time, there seem to be more instances of people having relational issues, whether with friends or at work, due to failures in communication.
The turn signal is the main way that drivers can communicate with the other cars around them. Ensconced inside your metal beast of burden, there is no other easy way to “speak” to the others around you about what you plan to do, where you plan to go. It is one thing when your communication gets lost or misunderstood, but quite another to simply take the stance of “why should I try to communicate with you.” I see this at my work and even in my church where a large portion of the community chooses openly to NOT communicate, whether through not reading information or messages sent to them (even intentionally not checking the tools provided for the communication) or by not communicating themselves. We have always prided ourselves as a nation of being based in community, with literate citizens, front porch society of open communication to one another. Today, if the car is any evidence, in place of that we have apparently decided we are just too busy, too self-absorbed or moving too fast to communicate with others.
The second implication is this: the failure to use a turn signal really is rude and implies the growing death of civility. In other words, the driver seems to be taking the position of “I don’t care about you.” Worse, the driver could be saying “it doesn’t matter to me if you are safe while I drive.” The turn signal helps keep the roads safer as all the other drivers know that you intend to pull into a new lane. Even when sitting at a traffic light, in a marked turn lane, it helps others know what you plan to do. You plan to turn and you want others to be aware. That desire for “awareness” is a level of social caring that our society used to have, at least somewhat.
It may seem a stretch for some, but I do think there is a linkage between something simply like not using your turn signal and the rise of violence towards others. Whether you consider the larger acts of violence we have seen, often connected to guns or bombs, or merely just the level of vitriol verbally between people, we are living in a time when people seem to have no restraint in expressing their violent thoughts. There are many reasons for this, far more than we have time to address here (read my initial thoughts about the tragedy in Connecticut here), but certainly the lack of care about the “other,” that “I” don’t even think about what my lack of using a turn signal could mean to you, implies at least a loss of worry about how my action will be perceived. And, if you don’t like it, well “screw you.”
Finally, the third implication is the biggest. As I teach my students, the core idea that Thomas Hobbes, and then later John Locke, proposed that was transplanted here in the “colonies” was “the social contract.” Regardless of the fact that Hobbes and Locke came down on opposite ends of the best way to protect the social contract, both political theorists agreed that a civic society starts with an unwritten contract between the citizens. At the root of that contract lies an understanding that each citizen is connected to each other, and they need each other. For the social contract to work, then, each has to believe that the other will equally choose to obey the laws or concepts of the society together.
I tell my students that it is easy to get a basic understanding of a society’s subconscious grasp of the social contract by watching how they drive, how they obey or fail to obey the traffic laws. Here in the United States, you can go just about anywhere in the country, at any time of day, and stand by a stop sign and watch people stop….without any police officer in sight….and without any other cars in the obvious vicinity. Meaning, that at least for now, as a society, we still have that grasp of the social contract. We don’t need a police officer to be standing by the stop sign to force us to stop. We do it because we want to be safe, because we want to avoid hurting anyone else, and at least at some level, we stop because we believe others are going to stop. Having driven or been driven around in other countries, the same cannot always be said there.
The turn signal is a part of driving, obviously, and as such, the lack of use points to hints about the tearing of the fabric of our social contract. When I simply choose to drive in a way that only is best for me, taking little concern or thought about the “other,” we can see the coming death of the social contract. I have written elsewhere about how each Great Crisis ultimately led to a massive shift in how the society understood government, the formal expression of the social contract. I still believe we are on the verge of entering such a crisis, though it could be true that we may be in the middle of it….I wonder if the death of the turn signal is more evidence of such a change. Our society that no longer works on a social contract becomes a very different, far worse, more coarse, more selfish society….if not a more dangerous place to be, then a culture that gives little concern for our mutual journey together as a civic entity.
Well, perhaps what I am seeing is on the start, only a symptom, something that we can notice now and become more self-aware. Maybe its not as dire as all that, but even if not, I hope you will start using your turn signal. At the very least, all the other drivers will thank you for that!
June 4, 2013 at 5:14 am, by
C.S. Lewis needs little help from me:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory, p.26)
What about you? Of course you will argue all to the contrary, that you have big dreams and lustful desires for many things that are far out of reach, especially financially. Yet, that’s part of Lewis’ point—those things never satisfy. Or, as Jesus implied, you can obtain the entire world and yet still lose your soul….and deep in the heart, you will know it—everyone always does. Something isn’t yet right.
The need is Jesus. Walking in His ways is the most difficult, most challenging and yet most rewarding quest you can ever undertake. Everything else, whatever kingdom you think you are trying to create, will pale in comparison.
Don’t be “far too easily pleased.”
May 30, 2013 at 5:34 am, by
So much new is around us that at times, I can’t really find my own bearings. At our work as school, I bounce between just thinking about doing good work for my students and confronting rapid change at a leadership level. Nonetheless, I believe this feeling is the “new normal.” I think we must accept the fact that education is both changing AND is under pressure (should I say “attack?”) from many different fronts. So, two months ago, I was reading the annual Fast Company issue about the top innovative companies in the world and drew out these ideas.
From that, I have a riff on some new education thoughts for the future. These aren’t necessarily in order, but perhaps like Luther’s 95 Theses are more a series of points that are only loosely connected.
1. Social is not an option for more…it is a layer for everyone. This fact demands change for people like me who are afraid of the social media, instant connectivity, “always on” world. Those who have determined they do not think social is good will not be able to escape this. I do not mean, however, that everyone MUST adopt a 24/7 mindset. In fact, I think the opposite—while social is not an option, we must carve out more space for being present, whether together (lunch, coffee, walks around the campus) or merely without the technology turned on. There is some other evidence that many are starting to see the need for this sense of being dis-connected on purpose. Yet, while we need the unplugged time, the human touch time, the idea of the connection—transparency and immediacy of social is simply not an option.
2. We must, then, work to determine HOW social works for the good of education. Some ideas would be understanding the social ranking thing my friend Professor James May often talks about (seen in a variety of current websites). James speaks at length about how the new transparency found in social media allows for thin slicing videos, etc…. Academia, and professors in particular need to adopt transparency in such areas like their Student Assessment of Instruction.
3. Speed matters—this is perhaps the thought that really deserves to be considered first for academia. Colleges, professors or academic entities can no longer can sit around for months deciding things. Perhaps the best way to express this is that we really are not a Democracy in decisions. There may be better ways to get there through new governance structures. We cannot sit around for some magical day of a convergence of consensus. That consensus never happens in the real world, so there is no need to keep tilting at windmills. While we may need to be cautious at some points, not just blindly rushing into danger, but make no mistake….in almost every business I read about, speed trumps all. Maybe Colleges and Universities must determine to think like a “start up” in order to facilitate decisions more quickly.
4. Since speed matters, we should move to build governance structures that either meet often or use technology to enhance their constant communication. Groups that only meet once a month, like a general Learning Council or faculty Senates simply cannot adequately participate in the decision processes well. At the very least, they should embrace some technology to facilitate a daily communication style, but the structure probably would be enhanced by weekly, or at least bi-weekly meetings.
5. We need to clearly communicate to everyone that speed is a part of our lives. If someone wants to participate in governance, perhaps what they need to be told is “this is a choice you are making, but along with that choice comes other factors such as teaching less so you can participate in decisions made at speed.” At the very least, it must be clear that if one is going to step into a committee or leadership group in the college (whether a college-wide, campus or discipline group), then that is part of their job. It is not optional; it is not something you can simply choose to ignore or miss. It must be done well with the clear understanding that key “next steps” at the institution will be made by them. They must also realize that due to fact that “speed matters,” they do not have any luxury to take their own sweet time to communicate or participate.
6. We must attack the communication crisis that has been upon us, the entire country, for the past 10 years, but worse over the past 5 years. This will take a consistent and forced decision by the senior leadership. There must be a clear message of “from now on, we will do X to communicate” or whatever is decided. We simply will continue to struggle if a large portion of the college workforce does not embrace whatever tool that is chosen for this, if they remain outside of the information delivery that is happening. Pew Research indicates that email usage, especially with the 30-under demographic, continues to fall, while communicating through a “mini-computer” (smart phone or tablet) continues to rise. I suppose the College could decide to maintain email, but then they must create clear structures, perhaps using third party apps like Boomerang, to help mold user behavior in a way that enables and facilitates better communication. Regardless, whatever the choice made by senior leadership for Institution communication, then it is NOT AN OPTION. All must use it, with everyone trained how to do it, and then we go do it.
7. R&D pays off. We must move talented, innovative people to R&D spots now…and pay them to do stuff. This is of course suggesting some sort of model mimicking Google where everyone is encouraged to spend time innovating. At Valencia we do encourage innovation in classrooms through “Action Research Projects,” Endowed Chairs and development programs like Destination. However, in this fast-paced, ever-shifting environment we need to highlight even further deep R&D. The R&D also needs to be broadly communicated through the institution in a way that people can adopt things, or can crowd-source the best ideas. Imagine a day in May or December where everyone comes together (or maybe on each campus) to see the innovative ideas from the various R&D people.
8. We must reinvent. No one is allowed to remain static. Entropy kills.
9. The future of Higher Education will have an aspect of “College without the Rooms.” Business is already going there to some degree (30% workforce works remotely according to a report by Cisco, though of course many are aware of Yahoo’s senior leadership moving away from this trend). In academia, as I have written about extensively, the continued growth of online classes, the MOOCs idea and other things like this are pressing us this direction. If nothing else, then the continuing rising costs of buildings seem to be an unwise investment. It is true that many students (the majority for sure) still value coming to class, but due to costs (just think about the challenge of paying for personal transportation), it is easy to see the possible decline of the face-to-face class, especially for the “Commuter School.” This reality will have tremendous implication—everything from online education MUST “up its game” to perhaps a world where the face-to-face class, seen as more valuable, cost the student more, which in turn will force the professor to be EVEN BETTER. To deal with this, we need a “within the decade we will reach the moon” pressure and goal.
10. The College President and other key leadership should use technology themselves to be more “present” for the public. Imagine a College or Univertity where the President holds “town hall” meetings via tools like Youtube or regularly comments on facebook. This would be for STUDENTS AND PARENTS to have face time with the leader, to ask any question, to raise any issue. There are a myriad of permutations for this to happen such as the President alone, the President with a Campus President, the entire Senior Team, all of the academic Deans on a campus. The point is acknowledging the transparency of our current day and taking the lead in reaching out to the entire community. Angry about the rising costs of textbooks—come to the townhall and ask. Frustrated about financial aid rules–listen in at the townhall.
11. We have to embrace the change coming from technology (access, speed, remove limitations of physical space) WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, using our expertise and experience to properly defend true learning, and how good deep learning takes place, what it looks like. Here’s an article with two people who think they know; I’m not sure they do know, so the question should be that we want to know how to get this same conversation into Fast Company but with two professors deeply invested in true learning. Both of these people are somewhat “outsiders”—note, I realize “outsiders” can have value, bringing fresh eyes to a situation, but at the same time, my point is that we should be leading the conversation in such a way that a group like Fast Company would not dream of printing this without us.
12. To disrupt, we must go all in….can’t be half way about change. If we don’t disrupt, we face entropy. For far too long, academia has seemingly adopted an attitude that “we know best; leave us alone as we continue to educate the same way its been done for over hundreds of years.” But, if we are going to really change, we can’t be half-hearted. And, remember point #8 above—we MUST reinvent, we must disrupt. Or, maybe another way to say it is that higher education is ALREADY BEING DISRUPTED. The question is will experts and innovators who are INSIDE (like Valencia) going to be brave enough and move fast enough to change the current conversation. If they refuse to go all in, the speed of others will constantly outpace the stodgy old higher education system, and half-way change will be ignored by culture that will always move towards the fastest moving, deepest innovators (don’t believe me…go ask Blockbuster about Netflix or Redbox….or go ask Myspace about Facebook).
13. We need to never be satisfied with being #1. Rather, we should always look to ask, “how can I get better” and consider yourself the underdog with something to prove. Maybe this is best understood as coming only to Valencia, the first Aspen prize winner and longtime scion of excellence…but I really think it’s how all of academia should think. For decades, perhaps centuries, we have been the undisputed king of learning. Now, with this rising scrutiny and other faster, more nimble educators going straight to the masses, usually for free, academia had better take on the mentality that we are on the ropes. We have something to prove, if we really are as good as we claim.
May 27, 2013 at 6:07 am, by
George Washington’s Prayer
When my family visited Mt. Vernon in 2007, we got to participate in the laying of the wreath at the grave of President and Mrs. Washington. This prayer as written below was used in that ceremony and I was given the copy that the National Park Historians used. The link I have provided has a slightly different version preserved that switches the wording to third person. In either case, in honor of Memorial Day, I thought it apt to share it with you.
I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks [sic] of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.
May 21, 2013 at 5:52 am, by
My regular readers know that I really appreciate the spin that Seth Godin puts on life, work, excellence and effort. Here are three recent posts that, to me, flow together very well. Read on:
We’re not even living in a lousy reality show.
Entertainment has seduced us into believing that we have a chance to live the life they live in the movies. Even the people in the movies don’t live that life.
It doesn’t take 135 minutes to make a life, it takes almost a century.
Everything doesn’t depend on what happens in the next ninety seconds. Ever.
The people around us don’t live secret lives. Spaceships and evil cowboys and pathogens aren’t going to upend the world tomorrow, either.
Life is actually far better than it is in the movies. And it takes longer.
“I want to be an actress, but I don’t want to go on auditions.”
“I want to play varsity sports, but I need to be sure I’m going to make the team.”
“It’s important to sell this great new service, but I’m not willing to deal with rejection.”
You don’t get to just do the good parts. Of course. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have chosen this path if it was guaranteed to work every time.
The implication of this might surprise you, though: when the tough parts come along, the rejection and the slog and the unfair bad breaks, it makes sense to welcome them. Instead of cursing or fearing the down moments, understand that they mean you’ve chosen reality, not some unsustainable fantasy. It means that you’re doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.
The very thing you’re seeking only exists because of the whole. We can’t deny the difficult parts, we have no choice but to embrace them.
Most of the time, we build our jobs and our organizations and our lives around today, assuming that tomorrow will be a lot like now. Resilience, the ability to shift and respond to change, comes way down the list of the things we often consider.
And yet… A crazy world is certain to get crazier. The industrial economy is fading, and steady jobs with it. The financial markets will inevitably get more volatile. The Earth is warming, ever faster, and the rate and commercial impact of natural disasters around the world is on an exponential growth curve.
Hence the need for resilience, for the ability to survive and thrive in the face of change.
A non-resilient hospital in New York City closed for months because the designers failed to design for a flood. A career as a travel agent ends when, fairly suddenly, people don’t need travel agents any longer. A retirement is wiped out because the sole asset in the nest egg is no longer worth what it was.
The choice is to build something that’s perfect for today, or to build something that lasts. Because perfect for today no longer means perfect forever.
Here are four approaches to resilience, in ascending order, from brave to stupid:
- Don’t need it
- Invest in a network
- Create backups
- Build a moat
Don’t need it is the shortcut to living in crazy times. If you don’t have an office, it won’t flood. If you have sixteen clients, losing one won’t wipe you out.* If your cost of living is low, it’s far less exposed to a loss in income. If there are no stairs in your house, a broken hip doesn’t mean you have to move. Intentionally stripping away dependencies on things you can no longer depend on is the single best preparation to change.
Invest in a network. When your neighbor can lend you what you need, it’s far easier to survive losing what you’ve got. Cities and villages and tribes with thriving, interconnected neighborhoods find that the way they mesh resources and people, combined with mutual generosity, makes them more able to withstand unexpected change. And yes, the word is ‘invest’, because the connection economy thrives on generosity, not need.
Create backups. Not just your data (you do have a copy of your data in two or three places, don’t you?) but anything that’s essential to your career, your family or your existence. A friend with a nut allergy kept a spare epipen at our house—the cost of a second one was small compared to the cost of being without.
Build a moat is the silly one, the expensive Maginot-line of last resort. Build a moat is the mindset of some preppers, with isolated castles that are stocked to overflowing with enough goods to survive any disaster**. Except, of course, they’re not. Because they can’t think of everything. No one can.
We’re tempted to isolate ourselves from change, by building a conceptual or physical moat around our version of the future. Better, I think, to realize that volatility is the new normal.
Putting all your eggs in one basket and watching the basket really carefully isn’t nearly as effective as the other alternatives. Not when the world gets crazy.
**Robin Chase describes a friend who said, “My dad had one job his whole life, I’ll have seven, and my kids will have seven jobs at the same time.”
**and not just preppers, but corporations that act like them
May 16, 2013 at 6:25 am, by
A few months back, Fast Company shared a blog post about seeing the future
In it, the writer described three styles of seeing the future: dragons, swans or mules.
For Dragons, some of you will remember the many references in Johnny Depp’s The Pirates of the Caribbean to the possibility of dragons. Well, here’s how the FC writer put it:
That said, it’s been my experience that most of the times a futurist uses “here be dragons,” it’s to indicate a topic area in a forecast that is uncertain and dangerous to even think about, at least for the client. There’s something about a particular issue that makes people within an organization steer clear, even if it’s a potentially important problem. So the dragon–as in “here be dragons”–is a sign of something we don’t know much about, but really should.
For Black Swans, a much prettier and nicer animal reference, the writer explained it this way:
Generally speaking, a Black Swan event is one that is outside of what we’d consider plausible, outside “our reasonable expectations,” yet is critically important when it happens.The term itself comes from the 16th century European belief that swans were only white, so a “black swan” indicated an impossibility….In many ways, the actual Black Swan problem isn’t the difficulty in predicting the future, it’s the difficulty in deciding who to listen to. Every “black swan” is an “annoying bird digging up my garden” to somebody. The “black swan” is a sign of something that we don’t know much about, but probably could.
Finally, the mule is the blog post isnt’ really an animal at all, but a human character in Issac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. In there, the story plot gets its dynamic twist by the arrival of a mutant (not of X-men fame, though probably with the same power) who can control human minds. This character called himself the Mule.
In many ways, the actual Black Swan problem isn’t the difficulty in predicting the future, it’s the difficulty in deciding who to listen to. Every “black swan” is an “annoying bird digging up my garden” to somebody. The “black swan” is a sign of something that we don’t know much about, but probably could….For futurists, the Mule is a sign of something that we don’t know much about, and really can’t–and will require us to redouble our efforts to get things going the right direction.
However, the writer left out a common animal approach to predicting the future….the turtle. We all know how turtles handle scary or threatening situations. They simply pull into their shell hoping to ride out the storm. Now certainly, at some point, knowing when to approach danger cautiously is wise, but the future is coming to us one way or the other. It does little good to suggest that the only way to see the future is to “turtle” down and just hope for the best.
Rather than deciding to run from the dragons, swans or mules, hunkering down in the hopes that our shells will hold out over time, we do better to put ourselves into action. So, get prepared with knowledge. Look for the evidence about the various issues relative to the future. Don’t just be afraid, but move forward with confidence. Yes, I have written that we are closer and closer to a major storm, but even that storm which will be big, will not simply destroy us all. In fact, the vast majority of us will certainly be alive on the other side of the storm.
Don’t fear the future. The fear won’t help you, and if you aren’t careful, you will misjudge what you are facing. Worse, you’ll decide to simply sit stationary, and that is rarely the right decision.
May 14, 2013 at 6:09 am, by
I was chatting/ministering with someone at my College who had written about a very tough situation they were going through. In our conversation, which we shared with a large email prayer group, I reflected to this person that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” Well, is that true or not? Does God use the moments of our greatest challenge for our good?
Later, one of my friends wrote to me personally to comment, saying that my comment is “actually not true. He gives us more than we can a lot of the time. It causes us to be drawn to our knees in prayer. The passage you were referring to gets misinterpreted quite often. It comes from I Corinthians 10:13 and speaks to when we are tempted, that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.””
Well, of course what my friend wrote is correct, that God does use our situations to get us down on our knees. However, as I wrote back, the semantics becomes part of the issue here. So that if someone means by “not more than I can handle” that they will never have weakness or never face pain or never be burdened heavily…well then they are wrong.
If, though, they mean that they will come to the end of their human strength and He will meet them there, allowing them to move through the situation without giving up, giving in, losing faith….then I think that is right. He will not allow me to face more than I can to the point that I fail. Sort of ties in Psalm 23 (even though I walk in the shadow of the dark valley, or am in the presence of my enemies—both the sort of place where one would feel as if they were shouldering the heaviest of burdens) and Romans 8:28 (there is no external power that that snatch me from God’s hand).
I added also that God does allow or send things that are rough, hard, frustrating and so forth. My friend wrote back again listing several of the giants of the Christian faith as examples of how God does precisely that, though my friend was still insisting that many misuse the concept of not getting more than we can bear. “Very difficult times often physical pain with no end in sight. I do believe the verse in Corinthian’s though often gets misinterpreted. I see it a lot and I cringe every time someone offers that verse to someone, in that context, who is deeply hurting because it does nothing for the individual except make them feel they might be doing something wrong to deserve their suffering.”
However, as I told my friend, the point is that Paul, for example, DID bear the burden of a loss of sight on the road to Damascus or putting up with that he called his “thorn in the flesh.” He didn’t give in. It wasn’t more than he could bear…God said “my grace is sufficient for you” in order to help us bear the burden.
You may be thinking “so what.” Well, for many, at some point in their lives (and for myself, it has happened many times) this good news that God will allow suffering in order to strengthen us, is critical in order to navigate heavy, hard issues.
J.R.R. Tolkien brings this up many times in his writing, but perhaps easiest to see in The Hobbit. As Bilbo and his Dwarf friends make their way into the scary dark woods of Mirkwood (this will be shown in the upcoming second movie about The Hobbit), we find out that Bilbo gets separated from his friends. In this moment, Bilbo gets attacked by gigantic spiders.
In a moment of desperation, Bilbo goes on the offensive with his little sword that he will soon christen as “Sting.” Before long he has killed his attacker, not only saving his life but allowing the journey to the Lonely Mountains to continue.
To understand the power of this moment in his life, one must remember that Bilbo was earlier described in the book as being, well, soft and lazy. A creature of comfort. You may remember even after he decides to go on the quest, he almost turns back because he had forgotten a prim and proper handkerchief (kids…go ask your grandparents).
Now, some months later, through suffering, long walks, challenging situations, a few “near brush” with death moments including almost being eaten by the creature Gollum…he was now in a position in which to fight for his life, alone. Unlike with Gollum where good luck, his wits and a magic ring got him out of trouble, this time he had to act with daring and decisive action using a sword….a real battle fight.
In other words, Eru (the God of the Tolkien’s world) had not given him more than he could handle so that he quit or gave up, but rather had given him just enough, consistently, so that in the moment of an even deeper crisis, Bilbo could handle the situation.
In the Bible, the story of Jacob tells us a similar story. I was studying Jacob’s life for a teaching series I was doing at my church earlier this year. Jacob is not a good person initially. Maybe hard to believe, but the Bible is pretty clear that he is a schemer, someone who might more readily lie to you to steal something from you secretly than do actual battle with you. This fact, by the way, is one reason why I love the Bible and believe it to be from God—He never tries to hide the humanity and sinfulness of some of the key humans that He, God, will work through.
Jacob, as the history tells us, ultimately flees his home for having crossed his older brother, Esau, one time too many. In fleeing, a weak and somewhat conniving little man, he runs to the family of his mother to hide. Once there, he spent about 20 years dealing with one challenging situation after another.
Along the way, he was taken to the ends of his strength and wits, and yet was also being refined by God for the road ahead. He saw how harmful lies and betrayal were when his mother’s brother, Laban, did to Jacob the same as Jacob had done to Esau.
After 20 years, he decided to return home, partially to run away in fear from Laban and partially because he heard God call him back home. However, Esau was waiting for Jacob, and with him Esau had brought 400 warriors. Jacob first began to concoct a scheme of how to meet Esau and do so intact, but that night, his life would change forever.
During the night, he began wrestling with a powerful being. At first Jacob thought he was wrestling with perhaps one of Laban’s soldiers or perhaps Esau’s, coming to test him. However, during the struggle, he realized that this was an angel from God. At that point, Jacob went from fighting against the being to holding on, perhaps even hugging tight.
Jacob had been someone who had schemed his way through situation, but now, on the cusp of his biggest challenge, confronting his brother who he had defrauded, he realized that he could not, nor should not, try to scheme out of this fight. Rather, he should hold on tight.
The fight would leave him with a permanent limp, but with a new name….that of Israel which meant “God fights.” Jacob’s new name was going to be a reminder that God was going to continue to fulfill the promise to Abraham, that his family would be God’s chosen people.
As Jacob, now Israel, limped to meet his brother, rather than scheming, he merely humbled himself before Esau, kneeling and bowing before him in submission, asking for repentance. We are told that “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him.” Esau, who had last wanted to kill his brother, now could see how God had changed Jacob.
Just like Bilbo and Jacob, you might now be going through some of the toughest things you have ever faced before. Don’t fear and don’t turn back. Stay on your knees, holding on tight. Ask God to strengthen you, to prepare a table for you in the presence of your enemies. He will work through your weakness, and as you come out of this, you will be stronger.
That doesn’t mean the situation isn’t hard or painful. It also doesn’t mean you might not suffer some losses. God’s transforming crucible will hurt, but you will, like Bilbo, be a new person for it, ready for the next thing.
May 9, 2013 at 6:35 am, by
I’ve started reading a wonderful, yet sad, book about the state of Education in Aemrica. Entitled, Academically Adrift, the authors provide clear evidence about the sad state of affairs in our education. I think the authors are spot on; their research confirms much of what I have thought and said publically about what has gone wrong in our country. While I will be blogging more about their findings later this year, last week as I shared this with my good friend Matthew, we stumbled into a simple snapshot of the state of affairs.
Generally, the authors of Academically Adrift posit that all of society is to blame for the ills presented in the book. They take students to task for being far too invested in non-essential issues of life. To the student, higher education is a part-time endeavor that, well, should be easy to accomplish. Faculty are accomplices in this because generally, for a variety of reasons, the professors ask or expect little from students. The vast majority of professors do not even consider the teaching of students to be their first mandate. Some of that comes via the third guilty culprit from the authors—the Colleges and Universities. In most schools, it rewards professors for virtually everything BUT teaching, turning over the process of educating to part-time professors (good people to be sure, but obviously not fully hired by any school) or graduate students (again, good people who attempt good work, but clearly not the “experienced mind” of a veteran professor).
Of course, more than these three actors are guilty, but the authors do not extend their research to the obvious failure or decline of the family, of the city and of culture itself. It is to the last there that I turn to a way to really understand what has happened. Note, the authors use clear research to demonstrate how much our culture, as seen in the evidence of students and higher education, has changed. Through their metrics, what our culture expects from itself has massively changed for the worse from the High of World War Two.
Back in the middle 1980s, two movies came out that well capture the image of education and what society really wants. In 1985, the movie The Breakfast Club came out, and one year later, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off followed to acclaim. Both of John Hughes’ movies, the sociologically deep investigation of the high school culture seen in The Breakfast Club and the somewhat silly yet still telling escapade of Ferris Bueller, demonstrate a shifting culture.
In The Breakfast Club, the movie depicts school as something to endure. The parents are almost all shown to be absent at best or overbearing horrible monsters at worst. More depressing is the character of Assistant Principle Richard “Dick” Vernon. Vernon, we find out, has been teaching for 22 years; instead of being someone deeply invested in being a champion for learning, he comes across as a jerk, mean, capricious and someone just skating by, probably hoping just to get retirement.
Along the way, he has an exchange with “Carl the Janitor,” perhaps the one adult who seems to be normal, who seems to be attempting to be someone fair in the midst of culture, yet still hoping to aim the students towards something better than just wasting their lives.
Assistant Principle Vernon
: What did you want to be when you were young?
Carl the Janitor
: When I was a kid, I wanted to be John Lennon.
: Carl, don’t be a goof. I’m trying to make a serious point.
I’ve been teaching for 22 years.
Each year, these kids get more and more arrogant.
Carl: Bullshit, man.
Come on, Vern. The kids haven’t changed, you have.
You took up teaching because you thought it would be fun,
you could have summer vacations off.
Then you found out it was actually work and that really bummed you out.
These kids turned on me.
They think I’m a big joke.
Carl: Come on!
If you were 16, what would you think of you?
: Carl, you think I give one rat’s ass what these kids think of me?
Carl: Yes, I do.
You think about this. When you get old, these kids…
When I get old, they’re going to be running the country.
: This is the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night.
That when I get older, these kids are going to take care of me.
I wouldn’t count on it.
The movie is clearly indicating that society and culture have changed and any time spent in education is no longer a worthwhile investment. The students see school as something to endure. The faculty blame the students yet are depicted as lazy as the students. The parents are absent. Overall, education is something to obviously be avoided. Enter Ferris Bueller.
In Hughes’ next movie, he demonstrates that rather than being forced to endure the penalty of a Saturday “locked up” in some detention hell, the students should actually just skip school in total. Again, the parents are completely clueless and largely support their son’s efforts, at least support by not really paying attention to the obvious clues.
The movie posits the faculty as either boring or incompetent. The economics professor, played so memorably by Ben Stein, the oft-imitated roll calling scene of “Bueller, Bueller” drones through a lecture that the students mostly sleep through. The Principle, Ed Rooney, attempts to have discipline and spends the entire movie in a futile chase to apprehend Ferris, but time and time again, the youth is far too smart for him. In the end, though Rooney thinks he can still win—“I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind.”— he will be undone by the sister of Ferris who hates her little brother, but apparently detests school and its principal more.
The takeaway again is simple to perceive. Education is nothing worth working for. Realize, I like both of these movies, having seen them first in the theaters when they came out, a college student enjoying the look back at high school. Yet now, looking back, its easy to see how both movies are a snapshot at our changing culture starting in the late ‘70s and building to a head of steam in the ‘90s.
The authors of Academically Adrift might have been thinking of Ferris or Claire, Bender and the other students spending their Saturday together in the school library. For those students, and for the majority of society today, education isn’t something to work hard for, nor is there really any apparent reason why the classes even exist. If we, as a culture, do not decide now to reclaim the value of learning, to see the academic system as important in creating a learned citizenry, a value in and of itself, then we truly are in trouble.
I think, however, we can reclaim this ground. I see that fact each semester. My students are typical students, coming to my class with much of the cultural baggage. Yet, through my own steady efforts, added to their own hunger for real meaning to their lives and what they have to spend their time with, most of the students dig into the effort necessary to achieve their success. They don’t want to accept the idea that our time spent together is pointless. They don’t want to be adrift.
May 7, 2013 at 6:04 am, by
In the second post of this three part series, we looked at how the late 20th century contributed to this myth that College is about getting a job. Perhaps it isn’t clear to some why this even matters. For starters, a deep confusion emerges about the product and how exactly to tell. By the late 90s, states like Florida were beginning to create tests to give students in order to provide proof about the learning that supposedly had taken place. Those tests soon began to dictate what was taught in the classroom and soon classes had morphed to start “teaching to the test.” Instead of discerning what the students had learned, the test became the “end all and be all” of knowledge and as long as the student could pass the test, apparently all was well.
However, being “learned” has never merely been about knowledge acquisition. Rather, as stated in the two previous posts, the idea of higher education was to, at the very least, move the student into the deeper realm of though, of complex problem solving, of dealing with ethical dilemmas, and the overall challenges of leading in a multifaceted community. Those aims simply cannot be captured by a test. As I have often said when asked about proof of my success as a professor, I will provide evidence 20 years after a student has left me. If my teaching has had the proper impact, it will show up in their lives much later.
Today, much of the scrutiny now cast on higher education is coming because so many of the students and their families who took out massive debt now realize such efforts may have been for naught. Not only do many find it nigh impossible to find a job, the jobs they find are not necessarily more lucrative than others. The myth has told them that “college graduates make more money on average” but for there to be an average in any industry, there must be a low end. Poor performing students who muddle through in some degree will most likely be among those in some job industry on the low end. So, years later, not only are they still paying off their school debt, they are doing so in a job that might not actually make them happy.
Rather than going to College for an education and pursing what was of interest to them, or better being immersed in the wider concepts of a broad-based education in many fields or arenas, they followed the Pied Piper of Which Degrees have the Highest Income. They got into a field merely because “you can get a job there.” Now, years later, they are miserable and not necessarily economically happy. This discontent came to the fore in 2011.
In 2011, thousands of young people, many college students (recent graduates among them) joined together to Occupy Wall Street in New York City. This “Occupy Movement” had many factors and foci, but one theme was clearly seen. These young people finally were waking up to the fact that even with their college degree, they did not have a job. Or, perhaps for many, they realized that they didn’t have job they wanted, that mythical job making 6 figures. They finally understood that for those of them massively in debt, it might take their entire lives to pay it off.
They were, and are, angry.
This decade of 2001-2011 shows us the 3 strands of increased focus. First, there is the economic pressure of a declining economy tied to the belief that College produces jobs. In other words, if Colleges were doing their work well, then of course our economy would be great because there would be more new jobs created by all these brilliant college graduates. Second, there is the pressure from former students and their families as student debt mounted and, as stated, the jobs didn’t miraculous come…or if they did get jobs, shock of shocks, those were not these mystical 6 figure jobs all college graduates are supposed to get.
Third, then, rising in conjunction with the first two, is the scrutiny from government where most of the funding emerges. Obviously (strand 1), the colleges aren’t doing their jobs well. And the constituents (strand 2) are angry, disappointed and left deep in debt with little hope. Therefore, the pressure rises on the politicians to somehow fix this and that is best done by increasing scrutiny and oversight.
In this period of our economic malaise, one recurring theme has been that we as a country must return to more stringent regulation and oversight. Higher education as an industry has been swept up into that. Surprisingly many who work in academia do not like this oversight. I say “surprisingly” because surveys show that most who work in academia (K-12 + Higher Ed) are overwhelmingly vote on the left, the Liberal side of our politics and most cries for regulation have come from there. So, now that government says “you are right…let’s regulate things including education” those same liberal professors cry foul.
Regardless, though, the scrutiny, focus and regulation isn’t going away, or at least I can’t see how it will. Thus, where does that leave us? We have a citizenry combined with the political structure that believes College is designed to create graduates to get super awesome jobs, but College remains a structure designed to create intelligent people.
Can you see the problem here?
Thus we end up with students who are shocked, literally shocked, to sit in my class to hear me say that passing my class isn’t a given and that it will take hard work. We have students who will withdraw because their grade dips below a “B” even though, were they students in the 1960s, they would probably be failing outright. We have a government who suggests we should be able to move these students through in an ever-increasingly rapid way which often sounds in many ears like “pass them regardless of how they do in class.” Thus, we have some professors who succumb to the general will and do just that, pass students we don’t really know the material, who will contribute to grade inflation. These same professors will join the many profs who, to the student, seem very bored about their own material, who give somewhat childish easy tests and who don’t seem to really care about the student in the least.
This is our problem. What is the solution?
We must start with teaching the nation what the real purpose of college is. Secondly, we must provide students true and honest advising, which would include telling many students that they are pursuing the wrong path, or even that they should not be in college. I know many of our advisors at Valencia try to precisely that, but sometimes find their hands tied when coming up against culture which has told the student about the myth. Thirdly, we must work to bring down the general costs of college, and partially that solution comes in helping students see that time at a Community College or (gasp) a technical school is a very wise path.
The alternative is to end up in a situation much like Alice’s Wonderland where nothing made sense. Down there we can keep telling ourselves some myth about college, and then get angrier and angrier when the truth keeps inconveniently sticking its head into the story. We can bring on even more oversight by politicians who aren’t really in any position to know how best to foster learning.
Along the way, we can lose the country. Creating “learned citizens” has been among the prime calls to education from our founding, with leaders like John Adams, John Jay, Patrick Henry, George Washington among the many who saw without education, the Republic could never survive. Adams wrote, “The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved.” Maybe we are already enslaved and we simply don’t know it—enslaved to wealth, to a consumer-driven god, to politicians who are run by big money from a variety of sectors with their lobbyists. Maybe there is nothing we can do. I think we can…by defending the point of College.
May 2, 2013 at 5:58 am, by
The path may seem dark, but God has a plan. We’ve covered this before looking at how the god of Tolkien’s world, Eru, had plans. We saw how Bilbo and his Dwarf friends seemingly fell into foul trouble, being captured by the Elves of the woods. Yet, that allowed for them to make the one single way through the dark woods of Mirkwood.
This is a common theme for Tolkien and here’s another excellent example that I used in church recently. At the end of Fellowship, we see that the small company is attacked by enemies from Saruman trying to capture the one ring. IN the process of attack, Frodo and Sam escape to continue the journey into the dark lands of Mordor, the home of the main enemy. Meanwhile, two other Hobbits, Merry and Pippen were captured. Now Aragorn faces a tough decision. Does he follow after Frodo and Sam or try to save the two captured friends? He made a vow to go with Frodo and protect him at all costs. Yet, if left alone, the two captured Hobbits would be tortured.
Aragorn is equally tortured with the choice he faces. Tolkien writes it this way:
“and now may I make a right choice, and change the evil fate of this unhappy day.” He stood silent for a moment. “I will follow the orcs…if I seek [Frodo] in the wilderness, I must abandon the captives [Merry & Pippin] to torment and death…we that remain cannot forsake our companions while we have strength left.”
So, he and his two surviving companions, Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf take off racing to try and catch up. They take off hours after the enemies had already departed, also at a run. Now, two days later of almost constant running, the three pursuers are debating which direction to go as the trail splits as the orcs have now split into two groups, going off in different directions. Now our heroes are exhausted and its dark; they need to rest. .
Gimli said, “If we decide to rest, then the blind night is the time to do so.”
“I said it was a hard choice,” said Aragorn. “How shall we end this debate”?
“My heart bids me go on,” said Legolas. “But we must hold together. I will follow your counsel.”
“You give the choice to an ill chooser,” said Aragorn. “Since we passed through the Argonath my choices have gone amiss.” He fell silent, gazing north and west into the gathering night for a long while. “We will no walk in the dark,” he said at length….[“We are in] a vain pursuit from its beginning, maybe, which no choice of mine can mar or mend.”
One’s heart goes out to Aragorn. Maybe you have never been there, but I have. You are the one everyone is looking to for a decision. Some times you are confident, wiling to step out boldly. However in other moments, it seems like every decision is a disaster, with people sniping and complaining and well, even in your own heart you aren’t fully sure you’ve made good choices. Or, even though you feel it was a good decision, at that very moment the decision seems to have not been good. Sigh. Tough times to be a leader.
Eventually, in our story, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli catch up to the enemies only to find that they are too late. This band of evil orcs has all been killed and, for all the 3 heroes can tell, the Hobbits are now dead. In some despair, they stumble into a chance meeting with a reborn Gandalf. If you know the story, Gandalf is a wizard who has been helping our heroes. He had been in the original fellowship, but had fallen to his death….or so it seemed. Now, to the surprise of all, here he is again, alive.
As they talked about what had happened, Gandalf perceived how down Aragorn was over everything. So, he proceeds to step into Aragorn’s depression and point out how all of his choices had indeed had a point, a purpose:
“Come, Aragorn son of Arathorn! Do not regret your choice in the valley of the Emyn Muil, nor call it a vain pursuit. You chose amid doubts the path that seemed right; the choice was just, and it has been rewarded. For so we met in time, who otherwise might have met too late.”
I don’t know what you are facing right now. Perhaps you feel like Aragorn that all of your choices have been ill-advised. Take heart. If you will place your trust in God, I believe that He will work things out to the good of His larger purposes. In the end, through no real choice of your own EXCEPT the fact that you made the best choices, best decisions that you could, you may end up meeting a powerful new friend who will change everything.