Know & Learn & Train & Teach

This is a focus area with a heavy title, and one's that's pretty self-explanatory.  It's called out as a focus area because gaps in these areas are part of what has contributed to the fix we're in in the U.S.  Hard to pin down when it started, but the cracks came to the surface perhaps more clearly than ever before in the 2016 presidential election.  Now in a worldwide pandemic catastrophe, the U.S. takes itself to new levels; highlighting gaps that led to this specific focus area:  the need to know and learn and train and teach.

You may ask:  Know and learn and train and teach WHAT?


That may sound insane, and we may have lost you anyway with the unusual, dense title for this page.

But the truth is, the U.S. is in trouble, with serious deficiencies in:  knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving, science comprehension, understanding complex systems, or understanding any of the following well:  technology, supply chains, public health, disaster management, the US government, reasons for government, history, the US Constitution, state and local government, foreign election interference, and so on.

Um, all of this is obviously a problem.

If you think we are being too informal here or not explaining enough, then I might suggest that you may not have been keeping up with the tone of this website (we're informal), or keeping up with the news (it's pretty terrible, and there's way, way too much to summarize).  This page is being updated in mid-May 2020.  The U.S. is in what we could call a slow meltdown.  Disinformation and misinformation about public health, medical information, the virus, and public policy related to all of that is skyrocketing.  Local, state, and federal governments are taking a mishmash of response and/or public health approaches, many of which are - let's be honest - total crap, and also dangerous.  These actions have already killed tens of thousands.  We could go on, but these stories are FREAKING EVERYWHERE.  If you don't see it, this website is probably not for you.

So what can we do about it?

One of the things we can do is to celebrate, embrace, and spread knowledge.  Okay since we're being smart and accurate here:  that's actually three things you can do.

Obviously in the long term we're going to need to do a MUCH, much better job with all the teaching and learning and whatnot.  Our educational systems are going to need a total overhaul.  However, right now, we are in a bit of a meltdown as noted above.  If we're lucky and also if we work really hard and at scale to make some shift happen -- we may just be able to turn this great disruption into a transformation.  No small feat, especially when it is a huge enough project to hold civil society and its institutions together while we go through this pandemic.

In the meantime, there's stuff we can do.

Four things we know we can do for sure:

  • Know stuff.  Know good stuff, silly stuff, accurate stuff, wise stuff, science stuff, and so on.  We're going to need knowledge to help us successfully navigate this great transformation.  Celebrate the knowledge you have.  Do more with it.  Grow and evolve it.  Make sure it's accurate.  All of that.  Plenty to do with all of the knowing.
  • Learn.  Learn knowledge, skills, facts, and things like media literacy.  Learn best practices, problem-solving skills, how to understand complex systems, or any number of things that can help you and yours navigate the world we find ourselves in.  Assess areas where it would be helpful to learn more, and set about doing that.
  • Train.  Train yourself, or train your kids, colleagues, organizational teammates, fellow volunteers, your civic engagement cohort, or your neighbors on something useful.  Figure out where there are gaps; figure out what you can offer to help.  We've all got something to bring to the table -- sometimes it's one-on-one; sometimes it's at scale and to thousands.
  • Teach.  Teach what you know; what you've learned.  We need good teachers; in all the realms.  Find what special things you can teach to your corners of the world, and find ways to bring them forward.

There is a phenomenal amount to do to help us all get through the time that's now.  See if there's something here that you can bring to the table.  Maybe what you can train or teach is something in one of the other focus areas.

We pull each other through this together.  That's how we get it done.

More blog posts and resources below.

know & learn & train & teach
10 Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide

From the site:  "The good news is, all over the country people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion.  More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in greater numbers and with stronger voices.   This guide sets out 10 principles for fighting hate in your community."

BOOK: Citizen You, by Jonathan Tisch

"Citizen You:  Doing Your Part to Change the World," by Jonathan M. Tisch.  The author's introduction to the book is in this article, and a one-page PDF interview is available here.

BOOK: Collapse, by Jared Diamond

"Collapse:  How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," by Jared Diamond.  A TED talk is available here, and posted to videos.

BOOK: Everybody Matters, by Mary Robinson

"Everybody Matters:  My Life Giving Voice," by Mary Robinson.  Also see the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice website.

BOOK: Originals, by Adam Grant

"Originals:  How Non-Conformists Move the World," by Adam Grant.  From the book jacket, "Using surprising studies and stories spanning the worlds of business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant debunks the common belief that successful non-conformists are born leaders who boldly embrace risk.  Originals explains now anyone can spot opportunities for change, recognize a good idea, overcome anxiety and ambivalence, and make suggestions without being silenced."

BOOK: The Primes (+ videos, website)

From author Chris McGoff in Part 1 of the book:  "How do some people, organizations, and coalitions thrive in uncertain times?  What enables them to appear so certain and take decisive action amid ambiguity about the future?"  The PRIMES website says "The PRIMES are universal patterns of group behavior that outfit you to work with any group to solve any problem - especially the big ones."  The PRIMES book notes "... Here's the deal.  Almost all the tame problems have been solved.  We get to solve the wicked problems.  Wicked problems affect a lot of peple and it takes a lot of people, all with their own agendas, to collaborate and solve them. ... The people who, amid uncertainty, successfully lead large problem-solving groups share these characteristics.  First, they are clear about what they are up to and how they spend their precious time.  Second, they are intentional and willing to go first.  Finally, they have mastered the art of enrolling others to join them."  The PRIMES website also has short videos and info about each of The PRIMES.  Another core counterfear resource is Chris McGoff's TEDx Rock Creek talk on "Quad4: Realm of Your Highest Impact and Highest Risk."  The author's company The Clearing has done significant work on wicked problems in many counterfear focus areas.

Disaster Resistant Communities Group

"The Disaster Resistant Communities Group was established to provide a host of disaster planning and preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation services to local, regional, state and national agencies and departments as well as community and faith based organizations."  Excellent resource, including for free training and exercises.

Heroic Improv

"We all have a hero inside of us. When a catastrophe strikes, our heroes are called upon. In the heroic improvisation practice, we practice how to be ready to put on our proverbial capes and fly. Disaster preparation training might not like sound fun... knowing how to act heroically with others is the key. What determines success when catastrophe strikes is our ability to listen, trust and act together... Potential danger requires us to know the plan of action, and chaos requires us to improvise responses to execute it. The heroic improvisation workshop puts us in a chaotic situation and gives us the felt-sense of moving into action together in a high stakes situation."

Institute for Healing of Memories - North America

Mission Statement:  "The Institute for Healing of Memories-North America seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations.  It provides emotional and spiritual healing to people recovering from painful or traumatic experiences and offers seminars and public presentations to inform other individuals and organizations about its work.  It also trains other care providers to use its methods."

MOVIE: Akeelah & The Bee

From Wikipedia:  "Deemed an inspirational film, Atchison remarked that his theme for the film was about overcoming obstacles despite difficult challenges along the way... The film alludes to the importance of community... It also deals with esteem and stigma in school while criticizes the public school system. Cast members said that although the film was aimed at children, they considered it had important lessons for the parents as well."

MOVIE: Save the Last Dance

Beautiful movie on resilience, persistence, finding a way forward, building creativity, and connection.  Stuff that matters.

MUSIC: Feel So Close - Calvin Harris

"Feel so close" - Calvin Harris.  "I feel so close to you right now."  If you are looking for a video of community and neighbors and fun and people taking care of each other, this is hard to beat.  Fantastic.  I learned of this video when I friend I was rooming with at an amazing convention woke up with the lyrics in her head from a dream.  We Googled it, and this came up.  We should have expected nothing less.

MUSIC: Gangsta's Paradise (Coolio)

Gangsta's Paradise, with closed-captioning.  Lyrics included on the YouTube page.

Professor Yossi Sheffi's Blog at MIT

According to his MIT bio, Dr. Yossi Sheffi is "an expert in systems optimization, risk analysis, and supply chain management, which are the subjects he teaches and researches at MIT."  He has published two excellent books on resilience:  The Power of Resilience: How the Best Companies Manage the Unexpected, and The Resilient Enterprise: Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage.

Resilience Circles - Small Groups for Tough Times

From the website: "Small groups of 8-15 people can form Resilience Circles for learning, mutual aid and social action. Circles are a great way to form community, build resilience, and have fun." 

Results Junkies - Paul Singh & Dana Duncan

"Thoughts on travel, photography, code schools, venture capital, growing startups and small businesses."  This site is also the heart of Paul Singh and Dana Duncan's 2016 trip across the US to amplify all of the above.

Seth Godin's Blog

Seth's Blog is an excellent resource for wisdom, inspiration, vision, motivation, and follow-through.  It is also a great resource for further resources.  Very worth receiving in a daily email or RSS feed.

VIDEO: Realm of Your Highest Impact & Risk - TEDx

"Quad4: Realm of Your Highest Impact and Highest Risk:" Chris McGoff at TEDxRockCreekPark.  This is a Counterfear Anchorpoint, because it is a rare, short look at what we need to do to solve wicked problems.  Also check out Chris McGoff's website and book "The PRIMES," another posted Counterfear resource.  The website has videos and a summary of each of the PRIMES.


TED Talks are a great source for video inspiration, and many have gone viral.  Check out or a smaller, local TEDx near you for more.  From the site:  "TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).  TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics - from science to business to global issues."

VIDEO: The Big Pivot, based on book by same name

Video on "The Big Pivot - Whiteboard Animation," 3:12 min.  Based on book by the same name, by Andrew Winston:

VIDEO: The Tribes We Lead - Seth Godin

This TED talk by Seth Godin is one of the classics.  From the video summary:  In The Tribes We Lead, "Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so."  Check out Seth's Godin's blog here; it's the only blog I read daily (also posted as a resource).

VIDEO: Why Societies Collapse - Jared Diamond

From the TED blurb:  "Why do societies fail? With lessons from the Norse of Iron Age Greenland, deforested Easter Island and present-day Montana, Jared Diamond talks about the signs that collapse is near, and how - if we see it in time - we can prevent it."

VIDEO: Wicked Problems of Now vs. Magical Thinking

The initiative to Shift the Country was built in the summer of 2020 for this highly unique & unprecedented moment in time. It's a whole set of wicked problems, & some were understood to be huge risks prior to this year. Our framework is set up to help people navigate the complex landscape of multiple disasters combined with active erosion of government institutions and active obstruction of response efforts. The first 48 minutes get into how magical thinking works & why it isn't helpful now. The second half gets into complex systems, a great disruption, and catastrophe and big disaster preparation in the US based on experience inside the federal systems that were supposed to be built to help with some of the current crises. This was originally broadcast on our Shift the Country Facebook Page on August 9, 2020.