One of my friends, Kyle Matthews, recently pointed me in the direction of one of Seth Godin’s blog entries where he talked about Thinking Bigger.
I have just been in Florida for the last 4 days, where I saw how powerful this principle is. My brother, Gerald Rogers, had an idea about two months ago to put together a multi-speaker event, which he invited me to, but I had no idea what to expect. Well, in that short period of time he lined up some of the most powerful speakers (people like Tony Robbins‘ son Jairek, the business guru an NY times best selling author Chet Holmes, Than Merrill and other TV personalities, former sports stars and incredibly successful entrepreneurs), over a thousand people signed up to come, and for the hundreds of people who actually attended – it is quite possible everyone left with their lives dramatically changed for the better (including me)!
Gerald Rogers with Than Merrill
Testimonial Video (after just the first day)
Gerald had really never done anything like this before! But perhaps being driven by a passion to make other people’s lives better invites the universe to conspired with you — as it did with helping Gerald succeed in creating a world-class event! In addition to the speakers, I was impressed so much by the quality of the other friends I met there too. It seemed impossible to walk out of the experience we just had without being inspired and recognizing how this might indeed be one of the best times ever in the history of the world – and being motivated to take advantage of opportunities which are present and to really make a difference.
When I think about my brother, there are few people in my life that can make me laugh as hard or feel as loved as he does. Now there are few people who have done as much to inspire me to believe more in myself and think bigger. And it makes me so happy to see how Gerald is now thinking bigger in a way that allows hundreds (and no doubt thousands) more to benefit from the gifts and talents that God gave him.
- What if I told you that in two months from now you could help do something that would forever improve the lives of hundreds of people (both those you know and love as well as those you have never met)? Would you believe me that you could – and then have the courage to make it happen?
- How much more could you do to make this world a better place, if only you had the courage to think bigger, focus, and follow through?
- What are the strengths and talents that God has given you, so that you can make this world a better place?
- What is it that is holding you back from doing that — and what could help you to eliminate the fear or mediocrity in your life so that you could increase your belief in yourself and your ability to think bigger?
I am back in Finland again.
(Have I ever mention how much I like this place? – If you have never been to Finland before, you need to reconsider your life goals) 🙂
Part of why I like the University of Joensuu is because of their strong international programs, and in particular their connection to Africa.
I recently accepted a position as the coordinator of the EDULINK ICT4D Consortium of African and European Higher Education Institutions.
Last year we wrote a grant proposal to the EDULINK funding call (a part of the European Union’s efforts to support and develop ties with the developing world), a couple of months ago we heard news that they accepted it, and this last week I sent out an official confirmation of the EU funding to each of the partner institutions.
The current partner institutions include:
- the University of Joensuu, Finland;
- Tumaini University/Iringa University College, Tanzania;
- the University of Southern Denmark, Odense;
- UNESCO Centre for ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London;
- the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana;
- Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique;
- Maseno University, Kenya;
- C. A. Diop University, Senegal
And with the following two associates:
- the Association of African Universities (AAU)
- and Entertainment Robotics, a private company that develops ICT4D.
The specific objective of this project: To strengthen each of the partner institutions potential for effectively producing and utilizing ICT for development; specifically improving academic curriculum and research capacity through (1) workshops, (2) student and faculty exchanges, and (3) online contributions to a virtual hub (for collaboration, resources, and open sharing of results).
I am excited about the position because it allows me to be flexible in where I live (as I can do most of the work online), and the project is focused on an area that I feel passionate about. I feel we can make a difference, even though progress usually turns out more slow than we would hope (it is more like sitting and watching a tree grow than it is like watching a train pass).
As you can see from my previous blog entries, instead of western countries simply offering aid to the developing world (and often unintentionally making things worse than before) – I’m a strong believer that it is MUCH better if it is a two-way flow of ideas and communication, synergistically coming up with solutions together that no one partner could on their own, helping with the “development” of the European partners as much as with the African ones.
We need to get rid of the idea that Africa is a poor person that we need to pity and help! In my opinion, such an attitude is patronizing and simply fosters dependency. Africa is truly rich, and they have all they need and more!
In a sense they might benefit from association with Western countries, but in that same sense Western countries need Africa just as much or more. It seems much more healthy and helpful to have relationships and attitudes that encourage a two-way synergistic sharing and implementation of ideas and resources (where the end result is better than either party could come up with by themselves).
Hopefully the fruits of this consortium experience will be ICT4D innovations, curriculum, and research that meet real needs and contribute to improving the quality of lives and the human potential of all involved.
Along those lines, my questions for you in this blog entry are ones that we asked at the TEDC conference participants in August:
- What do you think are the unique strengths of Africa and its people?
- In your opinion, what is it that Africa and Africans can share with others, to help “develop” even Western countries, and make the world a better place?
- (I ask these questions about Africa, because that is where a lot of the EDULINK project partners come from, but you can answer them with regards to any another “developing” area too.)
Several months ago, before I knew I was going to be directing the Edulink project, I proposed an idea to Andy Gibbons, the chair of the Instructional Psychology and Technology department at BYU, to offer a course on the use and application of web analytics for designing and improving online learning environments, and he loved the idea.
I had been teaching a course on Web Analytics in the Marriott School of Management (mainly taken by students in information systems, marketing, business), but I think this might be the first time any university has offered a course specifically about its application in online education (although I doubt it will be long before others catch on). [If you want to get an idea for what is happening, here is a link to our class space.]
What are my expectations from the course? That everyone in the seminar:
(1) has hands on experience with the application of it with a real case,
(2) has an opportunity to contribute to an academic publication on the topic, and
(3) that our experience together produces knowledge and insights that are greater than any one of us could have come up with on our own.
My experience so far indicates that using web analytics to make and test recommendations for a simple online shopping experience (with metrics like CPC and ROI, measured in $) is a little more straight forward than deciding what set of data to monitor in order to improve online learning environments. But lets face it, with most e-learning there is a lot of room for improvement! -It is pretty easy to see how there must be some beneficial ways that web analytics can help to monitor activity and create insights for recommending and testing data-driven improvements. The initial question of importance is to determine the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
Each of the participants in the seminar have already generated some ideas that I think will prove fruitful (click on their name to see their first brain storm of ideas):
Mary McEwen or here too
A combination of a summary of the class’s ideas along with my own thoughts over the last couple years of thinking about it will be forthcoming…
Questions for now:
For anyone who might be reading this blog entry –
– If you were designing and/or teaching online classes, for example, (as opposed to teaching one face-to-face and being able to see student’s reaction and adjust the experience in the moment) – what kind of things do you think would want to look at to help you make adjustments for the needs and experience of those you were teaching?
– Ideally what kind of things do you think you would want to be able to measure and monitor in order to give you insights into what is going well and/or what could be improved – (and for whom)?
Several times in my life I’ve heard a saying that goes
“The past is history; The future is a mystery. This moment is a gift — that’s why it is called the present.”
To be honest, previously I just saw it as a clever little saying and then didn’t think much more about it.
It has only been in the last year that I have really been struck with the idea of how powerful it is to live in the moment. (Appreciating the idea, however, is very different from actually living the application of it, which is still difficult for me). I watched a movie called “The Peaceful Warrior” (that I would highly recommend) which helped me see the importance of letting go of some control (or illusion of control) and the value of living in this moment, right now. Most of the time our minds are worried about something in the future which we can’t control or contemplating something in the past, for better or worse – but rarely do we stop and enjoy or even just experience right now, which is really the only thing we have.
I’ve now talked to 4 friends (two from the US – one of which was in India, one from Germany living in Finland, and one from France living in China) who have attended a Vipassana meditation course (absolutely free of charge) where you try to apply this principle through 10 days of total silence and Buddhist meditation – just trying to focus your mind on the experience of now. Each has said that for most people the first days are way more difficult than they would imagine, and even painful (being left with nothing but your thoughts, fears, doubts, regrets, uncertainties and trying to focus on the moment, without talking for the entire time – one of my friends could only last a few days). The three that were able to make it all 10 days said that by the end of the experience their life was changed – one of the most powerful experiences they have ever had.
It is more personal than I usually get on my blog, but over the last two weeks I’ve been experiencing some pretty intense “soul pain” (the kind of emotional grief which can seem at times worse than physical pain). I read some scriptures in The Book of Mormon which talk about the value of “today”, and I thought about my friends who have attended this Vipassana course. While feeling a deep sadness, I started to ask the questions:
How is it possible to value this moment when I am in pain now?
How can I focus on now and not think of past joy and/or hope somehow for a better future than the present moment?
What is there to see of value in this very moment, even when the moment is one filled with pain, sadness, and/or uncertainty?
I had a few experiences (which I might or might not share later) where I came to understand some of the answers to these questions for my situation, helping to provide meaning for being in the moment, even if it was hard and regardless of what happened in the past or what the future held.
One friend of mine shared with me some stories of others in her life who are going through some pretty severe trials, and it reminded me of hearing a poignant thing from President Henry B. Eyring when he indicated that you could go up to almost anyone and instead of asking “How are you doing?” – you could ask “Where does it hurt?”
So that makes me curious for anyone reading this:
How would you answer those questions (e.g. for the hard times you have gone through)?
Do you think it is possible to treasure (or at least value) a moment even when that moment is filled with sadness, pain, and uncertainty? Why and How?
Even when unpleasant, how can you want to experience and be in this moment, as opposed to any other ones that you could imagine?
First of all, forget whatever you think you know about funny. OK, now remember it again.
That was just for practice.
Ok – now forget what you know about funny again, and then remember it again, but this time when you remember it, instead of the word “funny” think “Joey”.
For a while on the signature of my emails I have had a quote that says: “He deserves paradise who makes his companions laugh” – Quran (c. 651 ad)
If that is true, then Joey should already be sainted!
He’s not a professional comedian, he actually works in real estate and on the side fulfills some of his other hobbies and passions (e.g. snowboarding, bug control, teaching people “the nose flute”, hugging anyone who will let him, trying to join sororities, attending the meetings of random spiritual movements, etc…). But something about this guy just inspires hilarious moments and the funniest memories.
If you know Joey at all, and have a favorite “Joey story” – please share it with all of us. For those of you who don’t know him, maybe I will just share a couple (although it really is hard to pick which ones to share).
Wow – where to even start?…
Joey Story 1: Free t-shirt goal
One day I was on a university campus in the student center when I saw Joey. I said, “I thought you were in class, aren’t you going today?”
He replied, “Nope, I just want to walk around instead.”
So naturally I asked if I could join him, and he agreed. For some random reason we decided to make it our goal to get a free t-shirt within an hour.
After our first couple ideas failed, we kept walking around until we saw a crowd gathered to watch an outdoor performance. It seemed like the volunteers had matching t-shirts, so I suggested that if we asked to be volunteers then maybe they would give us a free t-shirt and we could accomplish our goal.
Through a series of events (maybe too long to tell), they wouldn’t let us be volunteers, so Joey had the idea to tell them we actually wanted to be performers and sing a song that supposedly we had written for that specific event. At first it looked as if there was no way it was going to happen, and so I played along. Only when the head guy of the event found out about our “song” and loved the idea – he indicated that we could sing it right then before they took down the microphones and speakers.
That is when I felt some panic, starting to regret our goal, and I tried to get out of it by saying we would really like sing it but that we somehow forgot to bring a guitar. Well, Joey saw a girl walking past with a guitar and asked her if she could help us. The only thing is she couldn’t play …and neither could we.
“Oh well,” I said, indicating my disappointment while trying to conceal my relief, “I guess we can’t sing it now after all – not without the guitar part.”
Well, by then Joey was at the microphone and asking if anyone in the audience could play the guitar. One guy raised his hand and so Joey invited him up to the stage. The guy asked what he should play, and Joey just told him to just start playing something. When the guy started to strum something, Joey said with surprise,
“That is it! That is our song”
A few seconds later I found myself with him on-stage, tightly griping a microphone, staring at the crowd, my heart beating fast (when he seemed so at ease), and then singing an improvisational song – which ended up even including some hand actions, as I remember!
To be honest, the look on people’s faces at the beginning of our performance seemed to be a cross between confusion and disgust, but by the end – and I don’t really know how – everyone was laughing and clapping. The guy in charge the whole event came up to us and he loved our song too – telling us it was one of the best performances, inviting us to sing it more places, and asking us what our motivation was behind writing it.
And, thanks to Joey, we got our t-shirts.
Joey Story 2: Text messages and an unforgettable laugh
Every once in a while I will get an email or a text message from Joey where he shares some funny or strange quote – sometimes even quoting himself (for example: “When you find something it’s always in the last place you look, unless you continue to look for the thing you’ve already found”- Joey)
I was in Hawaii a couple years ago and I got a text message from Joey that said: “I’ve been awake all night thinking about you.”
This text message was just weird enough that I called him and asked him if he sent it out to everyone that was in his phone book, which he did, and something about the timing of it – immediately we both started laughing.
Joey has this unforgettable whooping laugh, which often ignites laughter in whoever else is in the room. Hearing other people laugh makes him laugh more and harder, which then makes you laugh more, and it turns into this cyclical laughing effect until everyone is in tears and their sides are hurting from laughing too long and too hard! He inspires the kind of laughter that seems easier for kids, before we get too worried about all of the things that worry us in life.
It is true that maybe at times his humor does get to the point where people might feel awkward and could misunderstand his heart and his intentions, but a huge majority of the time it endears people to him – recognizing their lives are better with him as a part of it. (He is so humble and unassuming though, that I bet he will be really embarrassed if he finds out that I even wrote this blog entry about him.)
Joey Story 3: His niece Liberty (“Libby”)
I also think Joey’s funny-bug is a bit contagious, just being around him somehow brings it out of others. For instance, his 6 year old niece Liberty heard her mom on the phone with Joey and told her to tell Joey that she wished him luck on this upcoming Tuesday. Both her mom and Joey were confused, so her mom asked what was happening on Tuesday. This cute little girl said that she was wishing him luck because she knew Tuesday was either going to be a good day for him or a bad one, and she was betting it was going to be a bad one. She then said, “just kidding” and burst into laughter.
Any kid who meets him loves him almost instantly.
Without a doubt, Joey is the kind of person that just makes life better. This world is so much of a happier, more colorful place because of him!
There are so many more stories I could share, but if you are lucky enough to know Joey – what are some of your favorite stories about him?
If you don’t know Joey, who is the funniest person that you know; and how do they make you laugh?