On Sunday, I found out that I had won The Listserve. Each day, one person out of about 25,000 people all over the world, gets to write to everyone else. What would you say, knowing you only have 600 words and 48 hours to respond? Do you take the opportunity to share your story? Graciously promote whatever you're working on? Do you dispense some sage advice and life lessons from your experience? Entertain with travel stories? List all the small joys of music, books, and other consumables that have influenced you?
I went with some questions about us. The future us.
I don’t identify as a sci-fi fanatic or with the technology-as-savior cults but I do thoroughly enjoy artistically deconstructing possible futures. I love to ask my comrades around campfires, on lunch breaks, while waiting in lines and dinner party spreads to describe a day in 2065. I probe about the prolific use of online dating influencing mate selection, solar roadways and self-driving cars eliminating traffic and parking lots, endless "would you rather” scenarios and imagining all kinds of conversations with my grandkids that begin with “when I was your age …”
I want your thought experiments, your dreams, and different versions of reality. I want your obstacles and your most cherished moments; more than anything I want to awaken your childlike wonder and let our minds play jazz.
Here’s one of those ideas: can someone just please invent a better way to vote! And by vote I mean harness the power of big data to poll the public, educate voters at a point of relevant decision-making, match consumer behaviors with intentions, and basically disentangle politics to become a monthly exercise for the average voter to access timely, hyperlocal issues that matter most to the welfare of their community, and weigh their own roles and responsibilities? I dream of that ideal user interface, the functionality and accuracy we’d achieve, and our collective potential.
Speaking of collectivism, do you ever think about an end of the world scenario, where you’d need to design your tribe to survive? What is your role and which part would you lead? Who would you surround yourself with, and how would you determine compatibility? What are the basic skill-sets you’d need to cover amongst all of you?
If you apply all of these questions to your context today, what would you be doing, teaching, collecting? I’m interested in survivalism, but am more bent on educational reform and curriculum development. (More of these essential questions from Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element.)
As a designer of learning environments and tribalist myself, I think about these questions—mainly what will we need to teach the next generation? How will we engage one another? How will we express concerns, navigate uncertainty, and negotiate trust? What happens when there are no experts in the room? Or when we’re all experts? I worry how our conversations have changed, and with them, the depth and authenticity of our interactions.
Will you judge others because of their optimism?
Will you patronize others because of their inexperience?
Will you establish a hierarchy of wisdom because that is what was done to you?
No matter your age, will you let yourself be seen in the name of learning? (See “The Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto” by Brene Brown)
To face this fear to be wrong, the comparisons, the top-down rhetoric, the manipulative mindset of “should,” and your own crippling self-perception—we must realize our unshakable passions, thoughtfully talk about them, and invite others to explore with you. How can we co-mentor and develop meaningful, encouraging, symbiotic relationships from a place of humility and kindness?
So. Are you optimistic about the future? Do you let your wonder and curiosity run wild? Do you keep those that inspire you close? Are you asking questions that excite those around you?
Thank you to my dear friend Dan Strongwater for forwarding a Listserve contribution about passion a few years ago and thinking of me. You’re a gem.
And don’t forget, if you’re not struggling, you’re not learning.
Find me on instagram @emiday, and twitter @iamemiday