The Hero’s Journey and the Future of Learning

  • What’s worth learning?
  • How is it best learned?

These were the introductory questions to one of my favorite graduate courses at Harvard back in 2007. The course was entitled ‘Educating for the Unknown’. Little did I know these questions would become my life’s work.

I have spent the past fifteen years working in the field of learning and development as a consultant, trainer and coach. I have been a learning junkie from an early age and have always gravitated towards books and movies featuring the Hero’s Journey. I remember watching the Rocky movies as a young child and doing sit-ups on the living room carpet imagining I was training right along with Rocky – we, the underdogs, daring thoughts of victory. I read and re-read my child’s biography of Helen Keller and my favorite book to this day is the Little Engine That Could.

Preparing for this TEDx talk (my first) has been a journey in and of itself. I admit I have tied myself in knots to be ‘TED-like’, which in my mind means sharing dazzling data, outstanding visuals and looking fabulous in three inch heels. Through nobody’s fault but my own, I found myself exhausted by this self-inflicted process.

Last weekend, I found the Mentor in my kitchen. I showed my husband the umpteenth speech draft and asked for his feedback. He said it was convoluted and incoherent and I was trying (and failing) to be TED. He told me to ask what my heart wanted for our education system, to be specific, and to share that. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Sometimes on the Hero’s Journey, we have to learn our lessons over and over. I’m learning (and re-learning) mine as I launch the Institute for the Future of Learning – a non-profit dedicated to transforming our obsolete industrial age education system. As a control freak perfectionist, this is scary. In walking this path, I need to embrace failure and risk – I also need to ask for help and to share why I am so passionate about this work. Reflecting on the Hero’s Journey, I see a path which tells me that Institute will not realize its potential unless I am in full and honest pursuit of my own.

So I’m going all in. I’m leaving my full time job at Harvard in June to launch the Institute. I’m moving from a comfortable place of knowing the in’s and out’s of my job to the unchartered terrain (for me) of a non-profit start-up. I am honored to be a speaker at TEDxRockCreekPark and look forward to being part of this Hero’s Journey.

See you there!

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