Questions are key to learning

The first time you do something requires a lot of investment. Time, sweat, tears, sacrifice. Taking that leap is so difficult and, at times, painful. This is the learning process.

I have always had a passion for learning, but I never loved school. School restricted my creativity; it tried to fit me into a box and make me conform to specific, predetermined ways of thinking. I turned to art and design because it gave me an outlet for expression that no other subject could provide. It let me creatively solve problems and answer questions with more than just a pencil and paper.

I've always asked questions, in no small part because of my dad. He asked questions that he didn't know the answers to all the time. If there was no answer, most people would just accept it and move on. Not my dad. He always asked questions as a carpenter, and the next thing I knew he was solving the problem with his own creative solution. He also wrestled with big questions about the universe and Heaven that he didn't have answers for, inciting a flame in me to ask the same.

I recall being laughed at in classrooms when I would accidentally ask an obvious question. It was embarrassing, but my desire to understand was greater than my desire to appear a fool. Eventually I learned how to ask better, smarter questions to get the results I wanted.

I was amazed in college when my peers would not ask questions. Even when everyone in the classroom was thinking the same thing, wrought with confusion, few would speak up. The indifference and cowardice bored and sometimes angered me. I would ask not for them, but for myself because I wanted and even needed to know.

Since then, I've gotten better at asking the right questions to get the answers I want. Then again, sometimes I ask too many questions, as a friend recently informed me when we were planning on meeting up. "You ask too many questions," she said, so I asked more just to annoy her.

Admittedly, questions can be annoying, but, it might be the only way to grow and learn. The process is never easy, requiring investment and hard work. The initial breakthrough demands intense focus, often resulting in stressful days and sleepless nights. When you want to give up is exactly when you have to push through. You have to learn to manage the stress, as the influx of knowledge and processing of information changes your mind.

It has been scientifically proven that learning is addictive, and I can attest to that. I love enveloping myself in learning a new technology and putting it into practice. The more I've pursued learning, the more I want to learn. There is no feeling like the sense of accomplishment you feel after you've labored relentlessly to create something brand new.

While I am curious about most things, my interest is peaked at the intersection of design and technology. That is where I do most of my learning. Being targeted in my approach helps me learn more efficiently. I know that I cannot comprehend the entire world, or even the entire worlds of design and technology, but if I can learn bit by bit, it will add up.

My own experience has taught me that learning accumulates. You may not remember specifics, but the influence of what you learned is still there. It has shaped, even in a small way, who you are and what you know. The knowledge snowballs until it is a powerful mass that can be used to build things, including snowmen.

Therein lies the value of experience; it is the accumulation of knowledge over time. It cannot be taught because it has to be earned through experience. Experience does not happen overnight, but is a process that starts with a question.

Don't be afraid to ask.

People Don't Read Anymore

I've noticed an alarming trend lately: people aren't reading. Friends have been commenting on articles that I share without actually reading them, and sometimes without even clicking through the link to see the entirety of what I've shared. I know this because their comments reveal that they don't know the contents of what I've shared.

This issue goes beyond just my Facebook friends. I have noticed many other indicators that people aren't reading anymore. Headlines have become punchier and more enticing to get people to click on them. Actual written articles have gotten so short and to the point that they are mere summaries with a link to the full article. There are even less and less substantial articles being written, in favor of the image or GIF-based lists that BuzzFeed popularized.

At work, we were discussing how to help users understand that we are collecting certain data to increase the legitimacy and safety of the site for the users' benefit. The setup we had was a paragraph of information, and it just wasn't getting the point across to the user. My answer was simply "people don't read anymore."

As a designer, the fact that people don't read is a problem I have to solve for constantly. How do I convey a large amount of information visually, with as few words as possible? More often than not, I have to assume that people will not read the details if I don't present them in an enticing, easy–to–digest format. Even that is usually not enough.

This is one reason catchy headlines have become the norm. Ridiculous headlines drive clicks, and clicks equal advertising dollars. Ridiculous headlines are also fun for people to share with each other. "Hey, did you hear about this crazy thing?!" The recipient usually doesn't have to read more than a few sentences, watch a video, and/or look at cute pictures of kittens.

I'm all for sharing cute, funny, exciting things with friends. My concern is how this behavior translates to more serious issues. The recent Israel–Gaza debacle has resulted in a multitude of online chatter in opposition to Israel's activities. It started as a slow trickle of articles that one or two friends had liked, and, within a matter of weeks, has quickly escalated to a large amount of my Facebook friends voicing their disapproval with posts about peace in the Middle East and calling for an end to the unfair killing.

This does not rest well with me. I do not trust that the people making the noise actually know the reality of the situation. The Internet empowers ordinary people with the extraordinary ability to influence large swaths of people. It can be an incredible tool for social change, but it can also reward the loudest voice, which isn't necessarily the smartest voice or the voice of reason.

As I've witnessed this chain of events unfold over the last few weeks, it has made me realize just how powerful the Internet can be as a means of spreading propaganda. The thing with propaganda is, if it is done well, people want to believe it. It is a lie that sounds like the truth. Misinformation can spread like wildfire without check; people overlook glaring inaccuracies to be the first to share the next big thing. Our appetite for instant information is insatiable.

My question is this: if people aren't actually reading and thinking critically about the information that is presented to them before sharing it with others, what implications does this have when there are serious issues at play? What about justice? I just hope it isn't too late for Israel.

JFK

I have always felt that I’ve received a solid education of American history (and world history) up to and including WWII. However, the time period after that, approximately 1960-2001, has been sort of a vague cloud of mystery to me.

I reason that, because teachers always start with history way back at the beginning, they run out of time covering all the material and would breeze through recent history with less depth. It’s also possible that recent history is more prone to heated debate, controversy, and opinionated views because time has not decided who was right yet. It’s also possibly I didn’t pay close enough attention. Whatever the reason, I never felt knowledgeable of that time period, but I am slowly trying to learn.

So, I decided to watch the movie JFK with Kevin Costner. It is a long, slow-paced docudrama, but it was a revelation to me. It is strikingly relevant to our time, particularly with the controversy over the NSA. I am truly blown away.

Here are a few of the many powerful quotes from the movie:

"What kind of national security do we have when we’ve been robbed of our leaders? What national security permits the removal of fundamental power from the hands of the American people and validates the ascendancy of an invisible government in the United States?"

"Going back to when we were children, I think most of us in this courtroom thought justice came automatically. That virtue was its own reward. That good triumphs over evil. But as we get older, we know this isn’t true. Individual human beings have to create justice, and this is not easy because the truth often poses a threat to power and one often has to fight power at great risk to themselves."

"The truth is the most important value we have because if the truth does not endure, if the government murders truth, if we cannot respect the hearts of these people, then this is not the country in which I was born and this is certainly not the country I want to die in."

Perhaps the most powerful quote lies in the credits:

"Dedicated to the young, in whose spirit the search for truth marches on."

Another Filtered Brain-Dump

You should know that when I set out to write a blog post, I usually don’t intend to write the mysterious, profound, philosophical things that I end up writing. I usually plan on writing about how my new jobs are going and what I’ve been doing lately, but it just comes out differently. I think it’s the artist in me attempting to create something beautiful out of what would otherwise be somewhat bland and straightforward. I guess you could call it a “filtered brain-dump” :P

Before & After iOS 7

Apple’s influence on the design world is remarkable. Flat design has been gaining steam for a few years now, but when Apple decides to adopt it, the world listens. I am a big fan of flat design and the new iOS 7 design language, although I haven’t used it yet.

It Fits In Your Pocket!

The iPhone 5s should be a powerhouse. The A7 chip with 64 bit computing, the M7 chip (for a new generation of health and fitness apps), major camera upgrades, and the Touch ID (fingerprint sensor) are all exciting new features. I’m baffled by how they fit all of that stuff in the same size housing as the iPhone 5, while supposedly improving battery life (slightly). The new home button design is pretty slick as well.

Even though I could have upgraded phones a year ago, the iPhone 5 was simply not compelling enough to me. I don’t need to waste money just to have the latest and greatest if what I have works fine. Alas, my 3-year-old iPhone 4 has gotten too slow to do many intensive tasks and I often find myself waiting for words I just typed to show up on-screen. I have to carry it in my back pocket because its life-support aka battery-case makes it too thick to fit in my front pocket.

A few months ago I was seriously considering the HTC One for its bigger screen and sleek design. However, I decided against it because Android still isn’t clean enough for me. I know if I had Android I would be endlessly frustrated trying to customize everything to my liking. I would rather spend that time reading articles or doing something more useful on my phone.

While I would still like a larger screen like on the HTC One, I am willing to compromise for a smaller screen because I think the power-packed iPhone 5s and the sleek new iOS 7 provide a compelling combination. I also can’t wait to have LTE speeds, play Plants vs. Zombies 2, and carry my phone in my front pocket! Hooray

Work-Life Balance

I absolutely identify with what this article is saying. Millennials aren’t without fault, but we are definitely misunderstood. I think part of the reason is because we are, in many ways, idealists who refuse to be miserable at our jobs the way so many people have been in the past. We don’t want to settle for the status quo. 

LinkedIn Tip

One of the best new features of LinkedIn is the ability to add notes about your relationship with someone right on their profile and add more contact information to their profile for your reference. It’s especially handy because it helps me remember when and where I met someone and who introduced me.

Stop Blaming Technology

I get really ticked off when I hear people complain about how technology is ruining society and that people aren’t as spontaneous as they used to be and blah blah blah. Technology is an easy scapegoat for our problems. Sure, technology has a part in the issues with modern society, but some people act like it is the problem, and that is just not true. Democrats are not the only ones to blame for our problems, nor are Republicans. Everyone and everything plays a part in the successes and failures of life.

What sparked this rant was a Facebook post quoting someone who was claiming that we are not as spontaneous as we used to be because of our phones and that every time we do something online we are ruining ourselves a little more.

That is complete malarky. Technology is a tool that empowers us to live better lives and connect with the people we care about. Just like everything else, it should be used in moderation with self-control. Anyone who is tired of their phone can turn it off. If you don’t want an iPad, you don’t have to buy one. We are still in control.

I choose to write a blog about my trip so that other people can learn from it. I choose to post photos to Instagram because I like taking photos and I like sharing them with family and friends. Nothing about that is degrading me as a free-spirited human being. If anything, it is making me better because I am constantly learning how to better communicate with the people I care about. And I can stop any time I want.

The car isn’t to blame when someone dies in an accident. The gun isn’t to blame when someone is shot. Why then is technology to blame for what is lacking in society? We can only blame ourselves because we have always been and always will be the ones controlling our destiny.

My Generation

I have said it before and I will say it again: there will be a revolution of sorts among the young people of America. Youth around the world have been erupting with discontentment for the status quo and it will happen here one way or another.

Growing up, we were taught to go to college to get a good job. Well what happened? The economy collapsed and what we were told to be true no longer is. Countless grads are unemployed and saddled with debt. We are repeatedly told that we aren’t good enough, that we need more experience to even be considered for a job. Tell me how we are supposed to get experience if we are not given the chance to prove ourselves?

I know countless peers in this same position. We are in a state of limbo because we refuse to go backward, but older generations aren’t letting us move forward. All we want is a chance to prove ourselves, and most of us will work our butts off just to get that opportunity.

It aggravates me greatly when people criticize our generation. Some say we are lazy. Some say we don’t want to work for our success. Some say we want to live off the system. They are wrong.

Every generation has it’s share of sloths. Every generation has it’s struggles and it’s problems to overcome. In many ways we are no different than those that have come before us.

The people who think those things of our generation forget that they created us and the world we live in. They are the ones that raised us. They created the technology we interact with and the media we consume. They dug the pit that our country is in. They argue amongst themselves and play games when they should be solving the problems they created.

We want more than the wars of our fathers. We were born to do something greater than blame each other for our problems. While our parents and grandparents try to fix the nation’s problems using the same methods that created the problems, we are quietly building a new economy. We will not rest on the laurels of the past. We will not be complacent.

I believe in this generation. I believe that we will do things that have never been done before. It isn’t going to be easy, but we will prove the naysayers wrong, one way or another.

Instant Success

My generation is too hard on ourselves. For many reasons, we’ve been conditioned to expect our success will come instantly. Despite what some say, we are hard workers and want to work for our success, we just expect more in return for what we put in than past generations did. And that might not be a bad thing.

Perhaps the economic downturn was meant to teach my generation something about ourselves. In many ways, our pursuit of success has been postponed, perhaps to shift our perspective of ourselves to something more healthy. We need to realize that who we are is not contingent on our success or our failures. We were meant to conquer and we will. It just won’t happen instantly. Most of the time…