Human Capital

I suck at learning in school settings, especially in the math and sciences, but I still transferred to SJSU for computer science after 4 years at Foothill Community College. 

I suck at English – thank you for bearing with me – but I still made thousands of dollars for writing scholarship essays and tutoring dozens of students, who went from barely composing 1 sentence, to multiple A grade papers. note: grades do a poor job at measuring authentic learning – the learning you document, organize, track, and make use of, does a much better job at doing so.

I suck at public speaking but I position myself to share my story, learn through discussion, and actively listen to save my peers headache and heartache. 

I suck at developing human capital, but I’m working day in and day out to do so, because I believe in harnessing strengths that are inimitable to humans

This is a blog piece that will be followed up with one on how I get paid $ to study and write. Writing personal statements and statements of purpose with deep reflection and metacognition have led me to a dozen scholarships, 4 internships, 2 research opportunities, but more importantly an awareness of self that keeps me centered on how I show up in the world. 

This is a supplemental post to Jeff’s on Goals (which has a podcast of Jeff filled w cilantro & spice!). Even though there’s a psychological cost to writing a goal and not following through with it, that doesn’t mean that we should give up on writing SMART goals completely… Being centered with who we are, where we’ve been, where we want to go, and what goals we have is essential to developing our human capital. You know, so we don’t forget to cultivate abilities like empathy and imagination along the way in the robot age… Our idolatry of billionaires equates wealth with virtue, but segmented tech & wealth doesn’t equate to humanity or commonwealth moving forward.

I do not agree with everything Chamath is saying here, but I do want to highlight what he says from 9:47 – 11:00 min, because it’s directly related to our collective goals in education, who we want to become, and how we obtain & sustain our needs in that journey. 

Below I render Chamath’s response he gave Andrew in the video above.

The single biggest problem America has right now is, we have a few large companies, that suck up the enomority and the overwhelming majority of all “traditionally” educated humans with human capital – often equipped with technical or rare skills that influence – potentially oppress with algorithms that decide who sees what, how often, and from whom – the masses. If you are a privileged young college graduate, how do you turn around to say I’m gonna work at a non-profit, create a career in: education, activism, civics, climate change, sustainability, agriculture, health, opportunity equality, in my local community… versus half a million dollars a year at one of these big companies. When Chamath graduated all he could think about was the student debt over his head… So it’s quite natural to work at one of these large companies. But when human capital goes there, what products are they working on? It’s like unfettered free agents. Imagine you had a pro sports league with no salary cap. What would you do? You would go and hire and sign every single ‘great’ player and stick them on the bench (lol). You’d be guaranteed to win a championship, you’d be a monopolistic championship winner year in year out.   

Lets zero in on the products that privileged / educated people are working on nowadays… Are the products many of us are finding ourselves on more often as these companies grow larger, creating or hurting citizenship?

Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”

― Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor

In conversations of what an education is for, I noticed they are primarily designed to address the need to become financially independent and move out of your parents home (in the USA anyway). Most of the people around me defend that education allows us to have more opportunities in our lives. However, when opportunities that actually do align with our values, are not well defined or researched, it is difficult to be ignited to then sustain motivation during the course of our education. Although some people believe that it’s not worth investing the time to research what opportunities may come from earning an education, others insist that it’s essential to do so by reflecting deeply about our personal stories. 

The striking arrogance of our American exceptionalism allowed us to ignore the virus of fringe ideas fueled by algorithms and profit.” – Galloway

The happiest and healthiest person I know is my professor Jeff Anderson. While I realize his work ethic could have made him an amazing mathematician working in industry designing algorithms for profit, his work in community college education allows him to lead a life that he will be proud to remember – by generating scalable teaching and learning algorithms that empower his students to 1) learn: how to learn all while 2) obtaining career capital. 

I know he has done a ton of work reflecting on his story and writing about it regularly, so he doesn’t fall in the trap of the dominant narrative – industrial mathematics. Instead he has crafted a career that would align to his values and the impact he would like to make on our planet for the next generations. I recognize that the conversation about values comes from a place of privilege, because I’ve lived and worked with people who have to work essential physical labor 10 hours a day (compared to studying) to put food on the table and keep shelter over their heads. Which means their ability to make time to think about values and apply the lubricant towards upward social mobility and human capital, is constrained by the life & environment they are currently living in.

However, as we are navigating our education and asking ourselves wtf am I gonna do with this degree or with my life, I have found thinking and writing about my values, which requires deep thought about my story and reading (which includes listening and observing others), to be an untapped vessel of direction & motivation. We all know motivation comes and goes, but with a stronger understanding of our personal stories, our values, and where we want to go, by SMART goal setting with horizons of focus in mind, we (know we) will live happier and healthier lives. Ultimately this will position us to work with/for/on “products” that may be most meaningful, especially in the scope of a lifetime.

Scott Galloway Prof of Marketing at NYU – after watching minutes 9 – 11 of this video here’s a Q for future educators: before you count a peer out, due to their insufficient ability to learn something, how may you provide significant learning support to address their culturally diverse skills-based learning needs for what you’re requesting of them? How many students do not graduate because we are not willing to look in the mirror to see what rigor is really doing for the majority of students?

Here’s what Scott had to say: “the worth of a society isn’t the opportunities that it offers to it’s remarkable – born with tremendous opportunities and resources. Do we continue to funnel more and more of our spoils to the small segment blessed and born into wealth? Or isn’t the worth of a society what kind of opportunities it gives to it’s unremarkable? To the kid who doesn’t have access to the test prep, had challenges at home, doesn’t at age of 15 have a patent, isn’t building wells in Africa, and isn’t captain of the lacrosse team – kids who get into these schools are 2 cohorts, the children of rich kids, or children who are freakishly remarkable. The ivys are more spectacle than historic, UCB will graduate more kids from low-income households than entire ivy leagues combined. But where America fundamentally changes, is at these land grant public schools that educate 2/3s of our students.”

note: I do not agree with Scott that tier 1 or ivy league graduates will produce great leaders, simply…

because authentic leadership that is representative of, and serve the population in the local community requires humility by lived experience, many tier 1 institution graduates did not live to endure.

Imagine having the wherewithals: from resources and skills to help others, and not doing it. We can not depend on charity and philanthropy – epidemics like harmful services & products must be cauterized. Let’s build our human capital together by reflecting on our story, our values, where we want to go, and who we want to be – that way we may generate ‘products’ that are more marvelous than the ones our mainstream media or big tech popularizes.

Let us harness our human strengths, for those that came before us, and with those that will come after.

Community Challenge:

What “products” are you working on, and would you like to be working on? you’re welcome to use a flexible definition of products here

How are you developing your human & career capital?

What’s 1 thing people can not tell by looking at you?

What would you like to be proud to be remembered for? 

What is a problem you had, what actions did you take, and what was the result?

What does privilege mean to you? pls contemplate on the word privilege, not regurgitate from what you heard in passing.

What was a pivotal moment in our life where you overcame a challenge and that experience helped you develop values that you were unaware of?


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