Good For You

Kids Are Smart, Calling Them Dumb Is Not

So earlier this morning, I had a Facebook friend post this article to his Facebook profile:



What proceeded were a bunch of comments about how kids are now dumber then they used to be. (Of course everyone ignored the link someone posted further in the comments that this is probably a hoax:

Now I get really really irate when people say this about students for several reasons.

Memorization doesn’t equal intelligence. 

I had a grammar teacher in 7th grade named Mrs. Gardner. I remember liking her but I do remember one odd thing vividly from her class: having to memorize all 150 prepositions… in alphabetical order.

Now I did at one point do this correctly enough to get an A in the class but I remember thinking, why are we doing this? Was it to teach us that sometimes you have to cram information into your brain quickly, prepping us for exams and college? Was it that sometimes you have to do something you think is pointless because it is important to a higher-up, teaching us humility?

I am still not sure of the lesson (unless it was really just about prepositions) but I am going to admit right here that I can no longer write all 150 prepositions in alphabetical order. This and other facts from school have been lost in my brain but I don’t think I am any dumber than I was 20 years ago when I knew them.

More information is being created to memorize.

So wars keep happening, countries borders keep changing, new laws are passing… are we expecting students to have to memorize more and each generation? I am sure the Suez Canal (to take an example from this ‘test’) was really important at the time but is it bad to say that building the largest building in Dubai is as important of an event to this generation they will similarly remember?

As the internet doubles every 20 something days too, we need to be mindful that a brain can only be so full… and what’s important to you in terms of knowledge might not be important to a 12 year old. Because that thing you are thinking about is part of your generation, not theirs.

We are now emphasizing different subjects in education.

You can tell by this exam that at some point there was a larger emphasis on history and geography then there was math and science. And that’s ok.

But we need to acknowledge we are training a work force that is decidedly different than even a generation ago. Understanding, using, problem solving, and creating with technology needs to go in the curriculum and, unless we want to make school days 14 hours long, something has to diminish respectively. We also see more and more the importance of learning about other cultures and our own culture in the way of art, music, and other disciplines.

So while older generations can wipe the floor with me related to locating countries on a map, I could create a map on a computer relatively quickly. I am not less intelligent, we just see here intelligence is relative.

Usually people making these comments don’t work with kids.

Have you met students today? Sure, just like back in the day there are some real slackers but lots of them are articulate, fun, smart, creative, thoughtful, involved in their community, and otherwise good people. Some over achievers have even done things like start their own non-profits, find cures for diseases, and become activists for causes that concern them. If you want to see an articulate young woman talking about her cause, check out this Youtube video.

Think about students you know. (Yes, people you actually know not a bunch of faceless stranger slackers.) For the most part, I bet you see them turning out ok and contributing positively to society? I’m betting the answer is yes, even if you don’t agree with their outfit choices or music taste.

So even though I’m old enough to theoretically have a student of my own, it really gets me going when people talk about kids today not knowing enough. They know plenty… and they can’t take some theoretical test from 1895 because they don’t live in 1895, not because they’re somehow dumber than their ancestors. And if you really want to make your kids smarter, praise them for their process not for their smarts:

So instead of calling kids dumb or smart, let’s support their efforts. Who knows, maybe they’ll turn out even better than they’re planning.


Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The Best Thing I’ve Found On Pinterest

Now those of you who are on Pinterest at 5:30 am know what a pinning fool I can be. As someone who reads and writes a lot in my daily life, there is something relaxing about sitting with my coffee on my pink couch and watching pretty and/or clever pictures go by on my phone.

You’ll also know if you’ve been reading the blog a few months that I’m on this ‘diet’. A big part of this has been me finding foods I can eat.

So I saw this go by from my friend Danielle and pinned it right away.



So I made it and it was awesome! And Derrick thought I made him a special treat and it took five minutes.

Here’s how to do this:

  • Equal amounts of cocoa powder, peanut butter, and coconut oil (liquified)- In my case, 1/4 cup of each
  • 1/2 amount of honey (so in this case 1/8 cup)
  • a bit of vanilla extract (in this case 1/2 tsp)

Whisk it all together and put in ramekins and stick in the fridge. Done!

And it takes only a few minutes to harden become chocolate ‘fudge’.

Seriously, I try a lot of Pinterest stuff that’s kind of ‘meh’ but this is so fantastic that Derrick thought I made it for him as a treat. A great chocolate fix without making me feel like I’m undoing a week’s worth of good eating behavior! Let me know if you like it!

And if you like this, you really ought to follow me on Pinterest.  I am sometimes accidentally brilliant there!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Why Everyone Needs A Matt

If you are lucky, you have some days where you can feel like a rock star at your job. And to balance out this feeling, other days you will really mess up. Most days, I have both these feelings, and today was no exception.

The great thing about my line of work is no one dies if I mess up. Bonus is there is literally (usually) an ‘undo’ button. The bad thing is because everyone thinks the internet is easy and instant, people think that you can fix an internet-based problem in five minutes.

Over the years, I’ve had several mentors who have ‘taught me to fish’, the most important being Matt Baya. When I want to use my charm to get out of coding or otherwise exhibit not-confident-in-my abilities behavior, Matt calls me out.

More importantly then making sure I am and act confident, Matt has been able to reframe my thinking, give me just enough information, and let myself try to get unstuck. He does all this over chat hundreds of miles away.

Matt has taught me a lot about not just fixing my own problems (forcing myself to learn new things) but also how to let other people help me. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past five years with Matt:

1) Give it time (ideally sleep).
Sometimes, when you are completely frustrated by something, walk away. I royally screwed something up yesterday afternoon and looking at it at 8:30 AM after sleeping, having breakfast, and walking my dog, it was solved by 9 AM. Worried about something being messed up overnight? Remember, no one is going to die. Unless you are a surgeon or something, in which case, get enough sleep!

2) You are not who you were in high school/college/last year.
For years, because the crappiest grade I ever got in college was computer programming, I have stayed away from coding. Matt has pointed out several times that I am no longer in college. And he’s right. Point is, don’t let who you think you are limit what you can do. Because you aren’t even that person anymore really.

3) Backup.
This is to say, do whatever you can to minimize loss. When you bake something tricky, you may measure your ingredients to be precise. If you are going to do something crazy on a website, you back up. It’s a lesson I relearn at least once a year.

4) If you need someone smarter, there’s always someone who can help.
In this world of informational forums, search engines, and social networks, you are hardly even in a position where you have a problem and no one can help.

5) If you are asking someone to help, isolate the problem as much as you can. 
Rather than say ‘x isn’t working’, try to take the problem as far as you can. I’ll try to isolate the variables (Is it the server that’s causing the problem? The website theme the person is using?) I try to look up and implement any obvious solutions. Then I write a detailed summary of what the problem is, what I tried, and what I might have done to cause it. Trust me, if you can articulate the problem and what the solution isn’t, you are that much closer to what the solution is.

6) If you are smarter, teach the other person to fish.
Matt teaches me to fish, I teach Alice to fish, Alice teaches clients to fish… soon the world is full of fishermen. And we can all get together and come up with better ways to catch fish.

Matt says that someday I won’t need him anymore. I have a hard time ever seeing when that day will be. Because there are always new problems to solve and I hope as time goes on, I’m moving from mentee to colleague for Matt.

If I do this right, I know someday, I can be a Matt for somebody else.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

How To Schmooze

I once got in trouble for using the word ‘schmooze’ in a work email. The person who saw it thought I meant it as derogatory. To the contrary, socializing with a purpose is something I actually like to do. I once talked to a French woman in a restaurant en français for two hours about the health care system in the US versus Europe. I have talked about Precambrian sand dunes in the American west at a bar at 1 am, I made a friend on a plane who I haven’t seen since but I am friends with to this day. I will talk to anyone for any period of time about anything.

My friends think I am a little crazy.

But even sometimes a chatterbox like me isn’t ‘feeling it’ so I’ve developed some schmoozing tricks to get through those events you just have to go to. Here’s what I do to make those Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours or fundraising gala events go well:

1) I check my watch when I go in. I make myself stay at least an hour no matter what. I have no doubt put on makeup and a cute outfit so the least I can do is let people see me for a bit.
2) I turn it the event into a mini scavenger hunt. Example: Talk to five people but… they all have to be wearing different shirt colors. Make the hors d’oeuvre server laugh. Work the word ‘discombobulated’ into conversation five times. This makes my interactions random and keeps me from being sucked into one conversation. Also this is great for goal oriented types, which I like to consider myself being.
3) Warm up your schmoozing skills with the people by the food. They are usually the most shy and uncomfortable at these events so if you seem just a little more comfortable then they are, they’ll talk to you, and gladly.  And you have a natural icebreaker: a comment on the food or drink. “Wow, I love this pate kind of stuff! Do you think it’s salmon?” or “I’m considering my options here, which wine are you drinking?”
4) Pull in someone you know into your conversation for an introduction. This makes you learn the person’s name you just met and makes you seem cool and connected.
5) Don’t sell. Be interested in what other people are doing and what their businesses are. Pretend you are Terry Gross and ask them interesting open-ended questions in a personal tone. “How did you get from business development to farming?” or “I hear you are good friends with so-and-so. Are you planning on working on any projects together coming up?”  Unless they are completely self absorbed jerkfaces, the conversation will eventually come around to you. Plus the person will appreciate your interest and you’ll likely learn something.
6) The more you do this, the easier it is. There is no way around practice. Make yourself go to one event a month. Like exercise or going to see that high maintenance relative, this is good for you even if slightly painful at times.

Remember other people are there for the same reasons you are: meet new people, learn what’s going on, and otherwise show their faces. You aren’t being filmed or scored by judges so relax and just do it. Eventually you too will get in a fun, in-depth conversation about economic development with a stranger over a margarita without even realizing it. Ready, set, schmooze!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Where To Look

Something I thought of this morning. Happy Friday.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

365 Things Lighter: Last Year’s New Year’s Resolution Results

Last year, I made a single New Year’s resolution, which made it easy to remember: get rid of one thing per day in my life. This is not some noble ‘I want to be less of a consumer’ (that is partially true though) or like I’m some crazy hoarder. I just wanted to see psychologically how I’d do letting things go.

Now like you, I’ve read these blog posts about people living with extremely few possessions (The 100 Thing Challenge for example) and if you’ve ever been to my house (or my office for that matter), you know I will never be that person. I love those people, I admire those people but I won’t be one. I was moved into my house for a week and people thought I’d been living there for years because I settle in quite quickly: my art on the walls, my dishes in the cabinet, my shower curtain in the bathroom. I smile at seeing these things, and having them makes me feel kind of like a dog marking its territory… though much less gross.

But the idea was for me to spend the year looking at my stuff. Each item I picked up, I wondered, does it have a purpose? Does it make me happy when I use it? And I thought if by the end of the year I was 365 things lighter, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I had a few rules for myself:

1) If something got replaced, it didn’t count. Like when my DVD player kicked it and I got another one that was a net zero stuff change.
2) Every item counted as one item. No extra points for big stuff or expensive stuff: whether it was a pair of earrings or a moped, it counted as one.
3) To keep my honest, I’d take a picture of each item with my cell phone. At the end of the year, I should have 365 pictures in the folder.

A few of my own patterns I noticed this year:

1) The first two months were easy. It’s almost like I was looking for an excuse to get rid of some of this stuff.

2) It was most easy to get rid of things in parts of my life where I felt really secure. Clothes for example. Now I’m no fashion model but over the last few years, I’ve had the revelation that I’m healthy and happy and have accepted what I look like. I’m ok with never being a size four again so seeing those clothes that will never fit go was quite a nice feeling. Areas in my life I was less secure in (electronics/technical stuff for example) was harder since I stupidly seem to feel like having every possible cord invented by man may make me more technologically capable. It won’t of course but it was interesting to see what areas were easy to clean out and which weren’t as a way to see which areas I had a lot of internal (versus external) validation.

3) Getting rid of my father’s moped was not nearly as hard as I expected. It’s kind of a weight off actually. I sold it to a nice local guy who has already got it running. I’m glad it has a good home (which I know sounds like a puppy you give away to go live on a farm). But even if he junked the moped tomorrow, I know it had a good run and that my father’s memory is not attached to any item.

I wasn’t as good at photographing everything as I thought I had been so I still have to do a ‘surge purge’ still for about 50 items (this won’t be hard, I can already think of things I didn’t see in the photos I thought I had already gotten rid of!). But all in all, I look back at these photos and seriously don’t miss any of it. I even had to click on some of the thumbnails because I wasn’t sure what the thing was. How can I miss it if I can’t identify it? :^)

Anyway, it was a good resolution because it wasn’t centered in something negative (I should lose weight, I should floss daily) but in something sort of neutral. It also was a good psychological exercise for me. And whenever I’ve told people about it, they seemed to like the idea so I thought I’d write a post about it.

Now if only I could figure out what to do for next year…

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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