About 4 years ago I wrote an e-book about my take on the school system and why it doesn’t work as well as it should. It was inspired by my favorite author Seth Godin. Before I try selling you something, here is a free version. I hope you enjoy it and share it with those who might need to read it. Thank you for being a loyal reader and a lending me your attention…
P.S. It’s roughly written but the underlying message is what’s important.
“When Following Instructions”
Written by Mereald Leon Benson III.
Eventually we all will be buying great and reliable products from each other (Friends and family) instead of going to strangers (Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Sears) that don’t really care about our well-being.
One day the world will be filled with creators of great ideas. Eventually everyone will realize that the only way to survive is to build something that people want to buy and talk about. People love the idea of knowing the person they buy from. It creates a high level of trust between the seller and the buyer because of the already familiar connection. This paragraph is a whole different book. One day I just might write it.
From here on out I will try to stick to the topic which is the effects of following instructions.
Being told what to do creates robots and kills creativity. Being told what to do makes living life easy in a physical sense of the phrase. When you take into consideration being told what to do from a perspective of pursuing your interests and passion this is impossible to execute.
There is nothing easier than following an already carved out path. It does not challenge you to think. It does not create a sense of urgency. Real effort is not involved in following a map. Real effort comes when you decide which way the map will take you. When you create the map yourself.
How can you be satisfied with what you’ve accomplished when someone told you exactly how it is done? How can you be fulfilled when your given a picture that has already been painted?
I argue that it’s damn near impossible to go further than your boss’s instructions. How do you accomplish your dream if your wasting so many hours doing what someone is telling you. YOU DON’T! I also argue that we are not created to follow instructions.
If we were designed that way there would be no television. Reason being is because the folks who are famous and have power and are on television would be far too busy following the boss’s orders. On top of that the person who created the very first television would have found someone else to follow. Luckily this is not the way the world really works. It’s just the government’s job to breed citizens that follow instructions precisely.
Let me also point out that I have studied a few hundred successful and unsuccessful people for the last 4 years. Studying that many people I have found that none of the extremely successful ones made it off of just following instructions. Following instructions helped them for a small part of their journey.
Studying successful people I have noticed that they have these traits and habits in common:
They wake up earlier than average people.
They stay up way longer than average people.
They have more energy than average people.
They love what they do for a living the same as they would love their kids or their spouse (Steve Jobs was a prime example of this).
They are incredibly outgoing.
They love to learn new things.
They read insatiably.
They stay physically active well into the golden years.
They love to help others.
They work weekends and vacations a lot of the time.
They never let fear get the best of them.
Most importantly they are not very fond of following instructions!!!
Most successful people like to live freely and follow their intuition instead of a manual. There are so many examples of successful people and their tendencies to go in the opposite direction of everyone else. They do not do good with following the crowd or staying current with the latest trends. Successful people are trend setters and could care less about any new fads.
They find tranquility in carving out their own paths.
Take for instance your average student. They are some of the best followers of instructions. How do I know this? For one I actually have been in and out of school for a large portion of my life. It sucks! (you know it does!). It all starts with going to preschool (k-1 to 5 or whatever you started your kids out with first). Let me map this out so you get the whole picture.
The life span of students and their overall duties:
Preschool: Your responsibility in this role as a first time student is to do whatever the teacher (instructor) tells you to do. Otherwise you will be considered odd, incoherent, misbehaved or even mentally challenged.
“Color this” (inside the lines). “Paint that”. “Time for a snack”. “Time for a nap”. Okay so maybe it’s not that bad in preschool. But the overall theme is to do what your told. Otherwise you’ve had an unsuccessful day of preschool and “how hard can that be?”
Let me step in as a former student and say that preschool might be a bad example to use (oh well). Here’s the thing though following instruction starts at a very early age. In order to get your wild and crazy kids to behave you must create a list of instructions for them to follow in order to keep them busy and out of your hair. This is the way the entire world works but more on that later.
Moving along to the next set of instructed teachings we have elementary school.
Elementary school: It’s more structured than preschool. There is actual class discussions. Well more like watching the teacher talking (forever). The teacher actually gives you assignments to complete. Time becomes your enemy. You now have deadlines. A bad grade means something more than just a letter with a minus sign next to it.
Single file lines. Having to raise your hand for permission to speak (what ever happened to freedom of speech?). Uniforms all the same color so no one student stands out. A do-it-this-way-or-amount-to-nothing-theme.
A caged-in (fenced in) area of celebration and imagination (recess: where kids have the most fun in school all day). One of the most important times for elementary students. They get to be themselves completely. They get to imagine and dance and talk about their favorite things. This is where your child learns the most in a day’s work. During recess authority decreases. It’s a lot like a free for all (in the students mind).
Children learn to jump, run, play, dance, sing and be themselves. They learn social cues. They learn how to think faster. They learn how to work in groups (a game of tag or hop-scotch). They learn how to perfect their eye and hand coordination (kick-ball, jumping rope, hand ball).
Recess is a critical part of a child’s day during school. It’s a watered-down version of them living on their own. Teachers playing the role of the cops incase something major goes wrong. Otherwise the children work out all of their little differences in some intelligent and not so intelligent ways. The point is that they learn things that will stay with them for life. They develop certain character traits. School does not teach children this.
My favorite author wrote a manifesto about some of this topic but he does it much better than I do. His name is Seth Godin and the manifesto is called “Stop Stealing Dreams”. One more thing: It’s free! Just google the title and download it!
Okay where did I leave off? Elementary school! Now we take a look at the next instructed teachings. Middle school.
Middle school: More structured than both preschool and elementary school combined. Here you do the required assignments or fail all throughout high school (before you even get there teachers assume and add more pressure). This is the part where teachers think they can predict your future (we all do this at one point or another to our peers).
This is the last chance you get to mess up (but only a little bit!) before test scores and term papers rule your entire existence. Following directions here gets crucial (in the eyes of the American government). No middle school is not the final say in your success or failure. It’s more of a gage checking to see how well you have followed those oh-so-important instructions.
Once again this brings me back to the idea that recess is the most important part of the day. Everything else is past events and outdated math formulas. How is knowing about pearl harbor going to help you or your child accomplish their dreams? Teaching someone who wants to be a history teacher about pearl harbor and world war II is idea. Anything more is blasphemy.
Let me interrupt this reading by saying that I’ve described school so far as “Simon says”. This game is more like “Teacher says”. Read these books filled with random information. Process this random and none essential information in your brain. Use that useless information to do assignments that engrave even more useless information inside of your brain (are you catching on to this yet?).
How is this suppose to prepare you for being an adult? Unfortunately a lot of adults are used to this way of thinking and living. The truth is that processing this useless information does nothing good for you. It teaches you that hiding from your fears is okay. It teaches you that starting something without asking first is not allowed. It teaches you that being great is scary. It teaches you that making a name for yourself is embarrassing. EVERYTHING IT TEACHES YOU IS WRONG!!!
Here is the best part: If you don’t process enough of this useless information correctly just as the teacher states it and on time with your name and date, you lose. You fail. You don’t get a good job. Your lucky if you even get a crappy job. You eat noodles three times a day for the rest of your life. You become an outcast. You’re a nobody. You lose permission.
This might be the perception of most people but it’s incorrect. I’m not writing this saying you don’t need school at all. I’m not say you shouldn’t put your kids through regular school. One thing I am saying is that school has a lot of flaws in its system. I’m saying that school (particularly college!) only teaches you minimum effort. Minimum skills. Hardly any values at all. There are a lot of things you do need college for.
Examples are anything in the medical field.
Anything that deals with science on a professional level. Unless you figure out a way to work your scientific business (chemist, scientist, bio-chemist, neuro-scientists) without school.
At the end of it all if you stop reading this book now my point here is: school is chapter one. You have way more important things to learn outside of school that are a must in the real world.
Investing (Earning and saving money).
Finding your passion
Building online businesses (if your passionate about it).
Building any type of business and being the CEO of your company and the list goes on.
Keep in mind this whole time your teachers have yet to ask you what you would like to do (I mean really do schools care about students or do they care that students follow every instruction to the “T”?).
Why is it that in english class we never learn how to ask really good questions? Why not teach students in english class how to overcome objections? Better yet why not teach students that failure is a part of the everyday process.
Why not teach kids that failure is one of our biggest teachers in life and that starting something worth doing is the other biggest teacher? Instead we associate learning with watching (but hardly ever listening to) someone we call a teacher give her biased views on the subject of her choice. Meaning she chose to go to school a become a better amateur at a specific topic.
What’s sad is that every assignment is already prepared for the teacher to teach. She doesn’t even have to break a sweat. Just flip through the pre-scheduled sections and like a robot give an emotionless lecture.
What if the teacher had to build their entire lesson book from the ground up? What if every teacher had to teach a class on his or her passion? What if they had to design and help write the text books themselves?
I can almost promise you this would change everything. Teachers would have to be more meticulous in their delivery. They would be even more eager to teach. They would be more passionate and make sure that the students learned. They would make sure they learned something not just because it’s their job, but because they would really truly care.
(High school) More instructions. More rules. More punishment. More useless information to cram in your brain for the advancement of following even more instructions as a high school graduate.
This is where the big boys play. This is where 95% Of the instruction following counts. These are the semipro’s of instruction following. Where everything you do translates into direct success or failure (as an individual and as a society) according to everyone else’s opinion.
If test scores are any indication of success we will have no real success. Success is not following instructions and filling in bubbles on paper. Success is not being punished for thinking differently than the rest of the class. Success is not doing the exact same thing over and over again wishing you could do something else.
Real success does not translate into who can follow instructions the best (that’s what game shows are for). Unfortunately school prepares us more for game shows than being completely free and happy with our lives. Sad but that is the reality of it. Here is my evidence:
On a game show you stand side to side with your competitors (classmates). You are asked superfluous questions (don’t be lazy! Google the word!) by the game show host (teacher). Then you are expected to push a buzzer (raise your hand) in order to get permission from the host (teacher) to answer the question. If you get the answer wrong a loud buzzing noise goes off (an “F” on the test) and everyone is aware that you are wrong (you stand out).
As a society we must change this way of doing things. Nobody wants to live the life of a die-hard game show contestant. We need real content and real problem solvers to step forward. We need game changers to do their part in making sure that the school system is broken down and built back up with a completely new way of teaching and learning.
Running school like a giant game show is doing nothing but killing us mentally. We are continually creating robots instead of leaders. The world is less impressed with the kid who can follow instructions the best and more impressed with creativity. A student who can create a new social network (Facebook) or create the worlds greatest music player (iPod) is a definite shoe in! Everything else is boring and predictable.
What we need to do is wipe out and destroy everything that has ever been taught to us in school and start all the way over.
Leadership. How to communicate with poor people, middle class people and rich people. Starting a real business from the ground up. How to do more than you are paid for while being appreciated by those you serve. This is what our school schedules should look like. Spreading great ideas and connecting with real people. Becoming a self-starter.
How to build and code your own website from scratch. How to stand out in a positive way while making a real difference.
How interesting do those classes sound? Interesting enough for you to sign up today? I know I would sign up.
School hardly ever teaches us the things we truly need to know. When we are learning something useful in school they just read through it and expect us to remember it. We don’t actually get homework assignments that call for us to go to an actual bank and apply for a mortgage or $100,000 loan. The lesson here would be to learn the ins and outs of the banking business and know what you’re getting yourself into once you decide to move out of your parents house.
How useful is that? As useful as it gets! This obviously is not practical to the school board or government. They’re job is to keep us ignorant to topics such as finance and creativity therefore we stay in debt and are not creative enough to find a way out of it.
The richest (not with trillions in debt) country seems to be the stupidest country. The american dream is not a white picket fence and million dollar mansion. The real american dream is embedded fear and debt with no way of ever prospering. This is the way they design the reality of the dream.
This country thrives off of keeping families in debt while the country’s debt continues to inflate. Debt on top of debt is not a free country if you ask me. It’s more like the rich taking from the poor who then borrow from the banks who give back to the rich. At least this is the way I see it.
Think of it this way: at some point we cross paths with the rich even if it’s on a monetary level only. A simple example would be attending a concert.
We save up half of our paychecks twice (in order to cover all costs depending on who you’re going to see of course). Then we pay a lump sum for tickets. We sit in assigned seats (just like school) and get entertained by who? The wealthy artist or artists on stage. After the show the artist leaves with a huge cash advance. We leave with memories. A month later we read a magazine article about how this artist made $10,000,000 this year alone. You know it includes your portion for your ticket right? This is does not mean you should boy-cot concerts. It just means the rich really do get richer and the poor keep getting poor. You shouldn’t be mad though. All you did was follow instructions and that artist you love so much decided to be incredibly creative (not following instructions) and look how things turned out.
It all goes back to the difference between the people who follow instructions and the people who don’t.
I’m sure you have plenty of arguments building up inside for me so save them for the comment section on Facebook or twitter.
What have we learned? The conflict of using instructions to punish people and run the world (In a broad sense). The main idea is that we both know you don’t want to be told what to do forever (you would not have bothered reading for this long). The important concept here is following instructions don’t necessarily lead to your idea of real success and happiness. It might get you an okay paying job and every other saturday off but what happens when you want more out of life?