Will this be on the test?


Notes on getting it right. 

Years of American education taught us to ask, “Will this be on the test?” Each passing academic year brainwashed entire generations to believe that all you need to do is pass your tests with good grades, and then go to college (more tests) and then you’ll get a good job. Just memorize these facts and recite them on this test at the end of the semester. We spent years memorizing and reciting. Semester after semester, we got ready for the final exams.

There are many tragedies with this narrative. However, mostly, it has created really awkward definitions of success, which means it has created awkward definitions of failure. It makes us believe failure is always bad and is to be avoided at all costs.

This represents a paradigm that is the antithesis of creativity, ingenuity and problem solving. It is just simply not the reality of what we need in our modern world.

This is why colleges produce thousands of graduates who have no idea what they want to do with their lives. They’ve been too busy getting the right answer that they haven’t yet asked, “What problems do I want to solve? What do I want to create?” Deciding on a career is one more right answer.  

I have a friend who is a managing partner in a firm that hires college graduates. They struggle. They struggle because the answer is not in the back of the book. They say, “How do I do this?” My friend replies, “You learn how to do it.” What they don’t say but want to: “I thought I was done learning – and it turns out I never learned how to learn.”

We need creative entrepreneurs who are not only interested in solving the real problems of our time, but who do so while accessing the divine joy sparked by the toil of the work. That requires creativity. And creativity requires a non-linear, non-formulaic process of self-awareness and courage – with “a bias toward action.” Mostly, it understands that failure is how we learn – and that failing quickly and cheaply is part of the necessary path of building social businesses. 

This post is adapted from Brand, Business & Buzz: A Guide for Social Entrepreneurs

A new generation of leaders are discovering that paying the bills and making a difference are both possible and necessary. But it will require new tools and resources.