Skimm

skim

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.1 Corinthians 13:11

 When I came across the word “Skimm”, I immediately thought it was a type of non-fat milk, or something on top of a cup of coffee. I was wrong. This is the name of an internet newsletter which is aimed at millennial women.

It started in 2012 by two women who are now 32 and is a daily current events newsletter. It has a readership of 7 million which far exceeds the readership of the New York Times which has only 1.6 million. That is not a misprint.

It’s style is breezy and is directed at an audience which is assumed to not have a deep understanding of issues. It has been, by any standard, an “insane success.” 80% of the audience is female, and 90% have college degrees.

Their content is a bantering Q&A, often with a quippish or clever answer. I found it intriguing since it is aimed at an audience that does not read deeply and has little (if any) depth of knowledge of history or current events.

For the older generation, it looks a lot like what we used to call “cliff notes” which were abbreviated notes on classes so that you didn’t have to read the course material.

The several issues I looked at tend to be reasonably objective. They push the millennials to vote and gives insights into both parties. Very non-partisan. Very refreshing. They offer a ballot “cheat sheet” for each party.

The newsletters are short, with click-throughs by hyperlink for more information if needed or wanted. It’s goal is to quickly educate and inform the reader at a top-level. No one is expected to walk away an expert on the issues covered, which is often a criticism of The Skimm by other journalists.

They have figured out a platform that disseminates news to the next generation in a way that it’s being read and digested. I suggested reading the Skimmto a young millennial and she loves it and feels it has broadened her knowledge of topics that she didn’t know about. She reads it every day.

I have two thoughts on the success of the Daily Skimm, both somewhat connected. The first is that the Skimm has tapped into a means of communicating with millennials in a format that they will consume.

But the second is at least as important: The church needs to be creative at reaching the next generation and adopting the model of The Skimm may be useful. Their short attention span and gravitation to social media means that their ability to dive into the nuances of a story is limited.

They may have seen the movie, but they haven’t read the book. Nor do they see any need to. The reality is, however, that facts matter.  According to the Urban Institute, facts help us understand complex and economic and social problems.

Finding a breezy headline with a few details and facts of an issue in a catchy way that actually works with millennials.  At least it is a better starting point than the alternative.

The Church can learn from this by figuring out a way to put the gospel and Christian issues in a format that millennials will actually read or digest.

The typical church posts its sermons on its website. That won’t reach the next generation. Taking the primary points in a short podcast or a set of cliff notes, however, might at least draw their attention.

Another thought of was suggested to me by one of my mentees who was a discipleship pastor for 20 years. He recommended The Bible Project. It has short animated videos of every book in the bible.

Again, it won’t replace a deeper study, but I found the videos and podcasts useful for a generation that has no biblical background.

We cannot change their propensity to want to just read headlines, so they don’t appear stupid about a topic in a face-to-face interaction. But, we can harness it. I am suggesting that my mentees who are in the next generation read The Skimm.

It won’t make them experts on a topic, but it will help them be more conversant with current events and at least give them an opportunity to go deeper if they get curious.

My millenial friend who reads Skimm said she felt more informed. Anything that improves awareness to history and current events in a format that millennials read is a good thing.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Introduce your millennial mentee to the Daily Skimm. It’s a step in the right direction of getting them informed about current events.

FURTHER STUDY:  How a morning newsletter to 7 million actually works.

WORSHIP: Listen to Help From Heavenby Matt Redman. It’s a beautiful song.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

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Humanics

brain

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. Psalm 188:8.

Everyone has heard of statistics or economics.  Statistics is the mathematical study of data. Economics involves the study of factors that affect an economy. But humanics?   Well, it’s the study of how to be human in a future world of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Who knew?  When I first heard the term “humanics”, I immediately thought it made sense. It’s estimated  that close to half of the jobs in the U.S. are at risk to being replaced by AI.

Even in agriculture, which has been reliant on manual labor for centuries, robots have made significant intrusions. They now have robots to handle basic agricultural tasks such as harvesting crops at a faster pace than manual laborers.

A strawberry farmer in Florida, faced with a shrinking immigration labor force, is working with CROO to develop a robotic harvester that can tell which fruits are ripe for harvest. They are in the 5thiteration of the robot, and feel that by the 7thiteration, the robot will be marketable.

A study by Deloitte consultants shows that the use of AI and robots are accelerating.  Forty-one percent of the businesses in the study rated this topic as important, and almost half said their companies are heavily involved in automation.

Twenty four percent of respondents in the survey had projects using AI and robotics to perform routine tasks, with sixteen percent to augment human skills. Another seven percent had projects intended to restructure how work is done entirely.

Andrew Ng, a pioneer in the AI field, says that AI is already transforming nearly every industry. Looking into the future, Ng has focused on trying to set up an educational system (K-12) which will give people the skills they need to succeed in an economy that is being changed by AI.

Which brings me back to humanics. Joseph E. Aoun, the president of Northeastern University has developed a humanics curriculum  which reinvents the college education into something that is robot-proof.  It is aimed at developing new skills in an age where other jobs may become obsolete or replaced by AI or robots.

The Northeastern curriculum emphasizes unique literacy skills that are not likely to be replaced by AI or robots. They include creativity, cultural agility, entrepreneurship, empathy and teamwork. The idea is to teach for jobs that only humans can perform.

Northeastern also excels in its famous co-op program where students pair classroom studies with full-time work in career related jobs for at least 6 months. It’s a hands-on experience, not just content transfer in a classroom.

Aoun goes on the say that “experiential education”  is the most powerful way to learn and the “ideal delivery system” for the humanics curriculum.

The next generation is faced with the challenges that AI and robotics will bring to job security in the future. Driverless cars or trucks may replace those jobs.  3D Printers are another disruptive technology that is already making its mark.

It’s not just low skilled manual jobs that are at stake. AI can analyze stocks or data, advise oncologists, do legal research and other high-skilled functions.

Guiding the next generation into a world of potential job obsolescence takes a steady hand with an eye on future trends which are likely to impact their careers and lives. I find it ironic that the key to success in a future world dominated by AI and robots is to become more human.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors should learn about AI and how it will impact the next generation. That knowledge will put you in a better position to help your mentee.

FURTHER STUDY: Andrew Ng Interview in Forbes Magazine.

Interview of James Aoun in Forbes on a robot-proof career.

Deloitte Article: “Is Artificial Intelligence Poised to Disrupt Your Industry?”

Deloitte study of impact of AI on Swiss Economy

WORSHIP: Listen to Shine Like Stars which tells us that “hope is not that far away”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com

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RESOURCES: Aoun’s book: Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

Wicca

wicca

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12

Wicca was a new word to me, and it might be to you as well. But you need to learn about this religion of “benevolent” witchcraft that now claims more members than Presbyterians in the United States.  It is recognized  as a religion on many college campuses, including a Catholic University.

A Pew Research study in 2014 said that 0.4% of the American population (or about !.5 million people) identify as Wicca or Pagan. The main Presbyterian church (PCUSA) has only 1.4 million members.

The Atlantic, a secular journal concluded that “not a single element of the Wiccan story is true” and that it actually got started in 1954 instead 35,000 years as claimed. Somehow, that hasn’t mattered to the movement.

My interaction with witchcraft is limited. I have been in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is prevalent. A sobering introduction came last year at a conference in Togo with Christian leaders and pastors from a dozen West African Countries.

At the end of each day’s sessions, the leaders met to plan for the next day. For some reason, the topic turned to witchcraft. The three African leaders all shared personal stories of their experience with witchcraft. They were truly scary.

These were not second-hand stories. They actually happened to them. Stacy Rinehart and I walked away with the same reaction. Witchcraft and the occult are very real.

So, why the rise of movements like Wicca?  Well, “Wicca has repackaged witchcraft for millennial consumption.” Wicca doesn’t emphasize the demonic or satanic. Instead, in packages itself as a “pre-Christian tradition that promotes ‘free thought’ and ‘understanding earth and nature’.”

In some ways, the repackaging has a crossover to Christianity in that the goal of Wicca is to make people better, thereby enabling them to “deal with past difficulties……and to rise into spiritual people who gently persevere.”

The good news for us is that millennials are often more spiritually seeking than most Christians. The sad thing is that they are exploring the dark side of the supernatural. Their lack of biblical understanding makes them an easy target for something that sounds good.

More than half of young adults think that astrology is science. The number of people aged between 18 and 29 who believe in the existence of God dropped from 81% in 2007 to 67% in 2012 according to Pew Research. Not a good trend line.

Wicca is polytheistic, like the New Age movement. They believe in many gods and many goddesses. All things in nature have a spirit including plants, rocks, birds, etc. There is no such thing as sin, only the need to elevate the self (or the “god within”).

This is quite distressing and dangerous. There is no “power” out there. The bible is quite clear on its warning of witchcraft in every form, even Wicca. There is a God and there is Satan; there is good and evil, and a heaven and hell. Something packaged as being innocent or benevolent is false.

Recently, The Satanic Temple sued Warner Brothers and Netflix for trademark and copyright infringement due to the use of a statute of a satanic god in a movie.  The suit says that The Satanic Temple does not promote evil.  Instead, it tries to reduce suffering and views Satan as a “rebel against God’s authority.” Nuff said.

The challenge here is that millennials are easy targets for movements like Wicca. It’s easy to stray from a biblical worldview in a post-Christian era. While your mentee may not be attracted to Wicca or astrology, it is part of his peer universe. He or she needs someone to come alongside and tell the truth.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  It’s a brave new world for the millennial in a post-modern and post-Christian era. It takes the steady hand of a mentor to guide a mentee through things like Wicca that might appear to be innocuous.

FURTHER READING:

Wicca Goes to College– The rise of Wicca chapters, even on Catholic campuses.

James Emery White:More Witches than Presbyterians (2018)

The Christian Poston the Astronomical Growth of Paganism.(2018).

Market Watch: Why millennials are ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology

The Atlantic Journal: The Scholars and the Goddess which debunks Wiccan history.

Comparison of Wicca to Popular Christianity by David Hayword, a pastor.

Netflix and Warner Brothers sued for $150 million by The Satanic Temple.

 COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

Withdrawal

 Addiction

If somebody told you that you were consuming something that was toxic to you, you’d probably pay attention. I’ve written about drawbacks of the digital age, particularly to children. A child’s brain can be affected by spending too much time on electronic devices. It can be toxic.

It’s called neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself “by forming new neural connections, leaving behind past traits and developing new ones” according to Tom Kersting, a psychotherapist.  He’s concerned that sound bites and tweets can interfere with digesting more meaningful information.

He goes on to say: “I do think that we might lose the ability to analyze things with any depth and nuance. Like any skill, if you don’t use, it you lose it.”  Wow.

Kerstner authored Disonnected, which is an eye opener. He became interested in the topic in 2009 when he was seeing kids with ADHD which usually develops by age 8, but now is occurring with teenagers. The iPhone was introduced in 2007. That’s no coincidence.

A doctor at Harvard Medical School, Dr. John Ratey coined the phrase “acquired attention deficit disorder”(AADD). . It describes the result of too much screen time which rewired the brain of teenagers who had not had ADHD before.

By 2016, Kersting and other psychotherapists found the following:

  • Kids becoming emotionally fragile with a lack of critical coping skills because they are not engaged in the real world with person-to-person interaction.
  • Reduced social and communication skills due to lack of face-to-face interaction, making it difficult for them to handle everyday bumps.

What makes this even more concerning is that one of the schools in the Silicon Valley – the Waldorf School – is the school where 75% of students are children of technology executives.

What makes the school different?  It has no computers. “They try and minimize tech altogether, and so people enjoy a lot of time face-to-face, [and] they go outside a lot.” It is one of 160 schools around the country that have the same model of no computers.

These are children of parents in the tech industry who publicly “expound on the wonders of the products they’re producing”.  ”[A]t the same time, they decide in all their wisdom that their kids didn’t belong in a school that used that same tech.”

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can conclude that those tech parents know something that we don’t. They know that learning with little or no digital world will eliminate the need to help their kids go through withdrawal later on.

Disconnected has worrisome anecdotal stories of kids addicted to video games. Withdrawal from any addiction can be hard.

An example of withdrawal: an 11-year-old boy in Cleveland stole his mother’s car and led police on a high-speed chase resulting in a wrecked car. He was mad because his mother took away his PlayStation, a digital gaming device.

France has just banned smartphones in school for students aged 3 to 15. Something is wrong when you have to ban a 3-year-old from having a smartphone – who would give one to them anyway?  As one mother said, “Children don’t have the maturity for cellphones”, and then she added, “Some adults don’t either.” Good stuff.

In the U.S., some 79% of children aged 12-17 have cellphones. Not surprising, studies show that a ban on cellphones can improve grades, according to Louis-Phillipe Baland, a professor. Baland believes that anything short of a ban is not nearly as effective.

The digital age is here to stay, like it or not. But you can set up boundaries for your adolescents as suggested by Kersting and others. You also may need to execute plans which help the next generation withdraw from overuse.

The challenge here is to create awareness of the addictive and toxic nature of the digital world on children and adolescents. Both parents and mentors need to pay attention to the reality that too much of the digital world is not a good thing.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Be conscious of the amount of digital time spent by your mentee. Overuse can have long term effects on emotional and intellectual health.  Just meeting in a face-to-face context can help.

FURTHER STUDY: France bans cellphones in schools in the Washington Post (July, 2018).

New York Times Article on “A Silicon Valley School that Doesn’t Compute” (2017)

RESOURCES:

Inc Magazine: Six Apps to help stop cellphone addiction.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked, by Adam Alter, a Professor at New York University (2017).

Disconnected: How to Reconnect Our Digitally ConnectedKids , by Tom Kersting (2017).

Jean Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for School.

WORSHIP: A new song – high energy, which says that no matter what happens, we’ll Never Gonna Stop Singing.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

Photo Courtesy of Dan Rush.



			

Labels

Labels

 

“You will see greater things than that.”  John 1:50

 Labels are often used to describe a person – both positive and negative. When someone describes you, they may use a label.

A label can identify your occupation. Or, it can identify you as to something you do or did in the past. Once given, it is sometimes hard to shake. For me, it was “attorney”, which identified me by my chosen profession. Like any label, it has some good and bad baggage.

In today’s often uncivil  political culture, it can even be an epithet aimed at reducing an individual to a single word, whether deserved or not. Calling someone “racist” or a word that ends in “phobe” often sticks even though the real facts don’t warrant that label.

In many ways, we often try to soften a label. Lawyers are frequently the subject of bad jokes – sometimes deserved, sometimes not. I spent my career trying to make the term “Christian lawyer” not an oxymoron.

I couldn’t control others’ opinions of my profession. I could only control me. I finally figured out that the only label that mattered in my life was being a child of God. A Jesus follower, who stumbled along the journey of life.

There are labels that we sometimes hang on ourselves. Labels like “failure”, “convict”, “abused”, “depressed”, “bankrupt”, “burnout” or “addict” .  Over the years, I have mentored men with lots of these labels, often describing a past that they wish to forget or overcome.

I recently had dinner at a fund-raiser  and spent the evening with a woman at our table who is in my wife’s bible study. We didn’t know that her husband had committed suicide the next morning.

The news shocked and saddened me. Here was a man who had gotten so depressed from his life circumstances that his solution was to exit this world, leaving everyone he loved to pick up the pieces. It solved his problem, but tragically burdened all those who loved him.

Having dealt with clinical depression and burnout, I was saddened that no one was able to get him the help he needed. It’s what I call the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” reflection. “If only” I had gotten to him……if only….

I have described elsewhere that most millennials think of their occupation as defining them. Most will spend their life identifying themselves by “what” they do – a label – rather than “who” they are. Or, better yet, “whose” they are. They chase the label while ignoring their real purpose in life.

As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, this too is vanity and chasing after the wind. Achieving success is fleeting. It might bring satisfaction for a while, but it doesn’t really give meaning to your life. As soon as you retire, your career accolades don’t count for much.

A label may describe you, but it doesn’t define you. When I retired from law practice, I still was a child of God.

One of my mentees is dealing with a past he wants to forget. He spent two years in jail because of some bad choices he made while in college. Understandably, he wants to put the label “convict” in his rear-view mirror.

As his mentor, my role is to give him hope that he can reclaim his life and turn it into something that God wants. His experience, as painful as it was, is something that he will be able to use some day. It will shape him but not define him.

He needs to see his life experience from the vantage point of a story-teller. As Robert Reese says, “Perhaps the greatest thing in our development is who we are becoming along the way.”  God delights in using “who we are along the way to accomplish ‘greater things than these’.”

My role is to walk beside him.  There may be missteps along the way. I am prepared for that.  My job is to invest in his life by letting him know that he is not alone.  I basically have said, maybe not overtly, that “I believe in you.”  It’s a message all mentees need to hear.

The challenge here is that the next generation is seeking labels to define themselves, or conversely, trying to eliminate a label due to past failures. Either way, they need help. That’s where a mentor comes in. Being willing to walk besides them speaks volumes.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: A mentor cannot fix the past of a mentee, but he can help them overcome it. Just the assurance that someone cares and whose presence in their life tells them that they are not alone on their journey.

RESOURCES:   I have had requests for books on Mentoring. There are a lot of them out there, but here are a couple that I found helpful:

Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on their Leadership Journey, but Robert Reese, et al.

Mentoring 101, by John C. Maxwell.

WORSHIP:  Enjoy Hillsong’s “Who You Say I Am” whose lyrics say “I am a Child of God; Yes I Am!”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.