All Posts in “Education”

How Traveling Builds Self-Esteem Part Four

*This is part four of a multi-part series on self-esteem and travel using the framework from Nathaniel Branden’s Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. Here are parts one, two, and three.

We’ve covered a lot of ground so far. From what self-esteem is, to the first four pillars of self-esteem and the ways that travel promotes those pillars.

The fifth pillar of self-esteem is the practice of living purposefully.

In the Six Pillars, Branden defines it as,

identifying our short-term and long-term goals or purposes and the actions needed to attain them (formulating an action-plan); organizing behavior in the service of those goals; monitoring action to be sure we stay on track; and paying attention to outcome so as to recognize if and when we need to go back to the drawing-board.”

Pretty simple.

Living purposefully doesn’t mean finding a single life task. Instead, it is the practice of setting out plans or goals for yourself and taking action to achieve them. It is having a vision for your future and taking action to get there.

How Traveling Builds Self-Esteem Part Three

*This is part three of a multi-part series on Travel and self-esteem


Nathaniel Branden defines assertiveness as,

“Being authentic in our dealings with others; treating our values and persons with decent respect in social contexts; refusing to fake the reality of who we are or what we esteem in order to avoid disapproval; the willingness to stand up for ourselves and our ideas in appropriate ways in appropriate contexts.”


Learning a language is one of the best ways to improve your level of assertiveness.

Traveling in Spanish speaking countries with only a limited vocabulary means that you have to get comfortable asking people questions and looking like an idiot.

Being passive is complex. You need to know the intricacies of the language to say “do you think that I could possibly…”

Being assertive is simple. “Can I have…” “Where is…”

When you are new to a language, you have to be more assertive if you want to learn and improve. And that assertiveness doesn’t go away when you go back home. It has become a habit, and your comfort zone has expanded. You have improved your assertiveness, and your self-esteem as a result.

If It Doesn’t Make Sense It’s Probably Nonsense

In school, you are taught that everything has already been figured out.

History, math, or science, whichever field you’re learning about, the ultimate answers have been figured out, and those answers are contained in your textbook.

You, as a student, are unenlightened. But if you sit still and memorize the rights words you can have the answers.

In school, you are taught that when you don’t understand something it is not the thing that is wrong, it is you that is wrong.

The book is hard to comprehend because YOU lack the intellect.

The math is hard to understand because YOU lack the conceptual thinking.

The lesson you don’t learn in school is to apply and trust your judgement.

You don’t learn that if something doesn’t make sense, it is very likely nonsense.

You don’t learn that most of the ultimate answers from our textbooks are actually incorrect.

Students abandon their search for truth because they feel unsuited. They become uninterested in math or philosophy.

Or they become convinced that they lack a trait crucial to understanding certain subjects. They aren’t numbers people. They aren’t science minded.

Students are lead into puzzles that lack legitimate solutions, and they learn to distrust their minds because they can’t figure it out.

The lesson they should be learning is to distrust the experts. To trust their judgment. To examine things deeply, but to sense that if a subject doesn’t make sense, it is not because THEY are dumb, but because the answers they are given are actually nonsense.

Travel University | Graduation

When I was 23, my life had become a burden. I didn’t like my job. I didn’t like anything in my life. The only thing I liked was escaping. Movies, sports, video games. Anything to forget what life was like.

I had graduated university two years earlier. I had a business degree, and I had spent the last two years of my life working as a glorified book-keeper. I couldn’t believe that this was all there was to life. Driving to work, driving home, watching TV,  going out on the weekend and dreading Monday morning. Was this what life was going to be like for the next 40 years?

It seemed pointless. I didn’t want to do it. Something had to be different.

Travel University | Organization 101

The skills you learn in school and college are only abstractly related to real life. If you zoom out and focus on the actual skills you are learning from age five to twenty-one, it is not math, history, or science, but instead, obedience and memorization. To be successful, you learn to please the authority figure at the front of the classroom and to memorize and regurgitate information on tests.

To achieve high grades in school, which is the endgame of any student, you learn to identify the information that is most likely to be tested, and you set up a way to capture that information and reproduce it when necessary. Humans are naturally lazy. We look for the most efficient ways to get what we want. If what you want is a 70% grade, the most efficient way to get it is to cram for exams.

In schools, paying attention during classes and actively practicing what you’re learning is not an efficient path to good grades. Most teachers give test review, letting you know in advance the most important information that will be on the test. Tthe most efficient way to get a decent grade is to wait until that point and only study the pre-test materials. The common skills you practice in every class is how to memorize information and perform on tests, skills that have little application in the real world.

University is an extension of this system. Although the information you are memorizing is more relevant to life in many cases (sorry arts majors), the actual skill you are learning, practicing and refining is how to memorize and test. Projects and papers are just other types of tests. You learn to look for what the professor wants and how to deliver that.

Travel University | Continuing Education

School ruins readers. By the time you make it through high school and college, you go from a curious explorer of stories and ideas to someone who associates books with boredom and stress. The association is so deep that years typically go by before a college graduate remembers that reading can be fun, and it’s just not something to do because you have to.

When you look around at very successful people, one of the most common traits is a love of reading. It’s pretty simple; reading is one of the best ways to learn and those that read a lot, tend to learn a lot.

Whether it’s cryptocurrency, frog anatomy, or ancient Slavic history, there are books on every topic imaginable. For a few dollars, you can get lost in millions of worlds. Imaginary, historical, biographical. You can become a fly on the wall and learn what life was like for some of history’s most impressive people.

Go a Little Further

Two days ago I took friends to see Lake Louise. It is a spectacular glacial lake and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Canada.

When you arrive at the lake, you get the feeling you are walking into a concert. A large crowd surrounds the parking lot end of the lake, posing for selfies and other photos with the beautiful mountains and lake behind them.

You could be forgiven for feeling a little frustrated with the crowd. It would be great to have more space to appreciate the amazing view.

Luckily there is a trail that leads around the lake. If you start walking on it, within a few minutes, the crowd is completely gone. There are still people, but 80% of the crowd sits at the parking lot end. Fighting with each other for space to get a good shot.

Twenty minutes of walking leads you to points with amazing unobstructed views where you don’t have to compete with anyone.

It takes a lot less effort than you think to separate yourself from the crowd.

The same applies to work.

Most people just do enough to get by. They learn the skills required to do their job and avoid being fired and then stay at that level. They stop progressing; they stop looking for opportunities to separate themselves from the sea of other people just doing enough.

They rationalize not doing more.

They’re not paid enough. They don’t get enough respect from their boss. It would take to much effort.

They don’t realize how easy it is. Most people just do enough to get by. When you do 10% more, you stand out.

How can you do 10% more today?

Can you share your knowledge with a coworker? Can you automate something? Can you finish a project before you leave the office that has been lingering for a while? Can you just clean you coffee mug instead of leaving it in the sink.

It’s easier than you can imagine to separate yourself.

Instead of complaining how crowded and hard it is to stand out, walk a little further, you can’t imagine the views you’ll see.

The School System is Dying. So it’s killing itself.

The education system is dying. Great alternatives are appearing. Code camps are teaching valuable professional skills. Courses for almost any topic are cheap and plentiful. Praxis is allowing young people to learn valuable skills and build a great signal for future employers. A better education is available outside of academia. And the research side isn’t far behind.

Companies like Y Combinator are funding independent research outside of higher education system.

A quick scan of the current environment shows you that university’s and colleges are in trouble.

Their competitors are improving quickly, and they are offering a superior product at a drastically lower price. College is in trouble, and they need to kick it into high gear to survive the competition. But now, more so than ever, they are making themselves irrelevant.

Administrators are unaware of the threat. They focus their energy on microaggressions, appropriation, rape culture, cultural sensitivity training. They are destroying themselves from the inside.

Now, when a young, intelligent person looks at her options, not only does she see that see has better non-college options to get an excellent education, but she sees that the actual college experience is worse than ever, and getting WORSE.

The inferior product of college is getting more expensive. The education content is falling further behind. And the PC culture is becoming more intolerable.

When you create institutions run by individuals without incentives to create value for the customer, those institutions die.

Travel University | Business 101

Business 101

Business school gets more popular every year. As the price of college rises, students want to make a safer investment so they choose a degree based on expected salary at the end. That means picking engineering, business, or something that will lead to law school. Business school sounds practical. You’re keeping your options open. It’s business, that where all the jobs are! So hundreds of thousands of high school seniors around the country know they want to work so they sign up for business school because they think they need to go to college.

In the college paradigm choosing to study business is a logical choice, but it is not the best way to learn about business.

Travel University | History 101 | Travel History

History 101 | Travel History 

Successful people learn from their mistakes. They don’t do the same thing over and over again and expect to get a different result. When they don’t get the results they want successful people learn a lesson, change their approach, and try something new. Learning from your mistakes is not easy, though. Observing mistakes and thinking them through requires resilience. You need to be comfortable with uncomfortable emotions, and most people are trained to avoid painful feelings. Instead of analyzing a decision they forget and understanding why it happened, most people avoid thinking about it and never learn.

“‘I have done that,’ says my memory. ‘I cannot have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually–memory yields.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Unable to handle the pain that comes from accepting responsibility for an action they aren’t proud of, people blame others. Their environment, their enemy, society.

Assigning responsibility is hard. There are so many factors that contribute to every single moment. If you spill hot tea on a friend, it could be you running into them, them running into you, or maybe even a third person who said something right before is responsible. A simple movement like pouring tea on a friend is complex and contains partial responsibility for a number of people. Now, try to take a four year period of world war two and tell me who is responsible.

On a day to day level, it can be challenging to learn from our mistakes. It can be challenging to assign responsibility. That problem extends when you try and interpret and learn lessons from millions of individuals all over the world.

The complexity of history makes it hard to teach in any environment, but especially a school. Especially when the people running the school, the school district, and the department of education have a vested interest in making you see events in a certain way.