Happy, Healthy, & Educated: A TEDx Talk on Hackschooling

13-year old Logan Laplante shares how hacking his education is helping him achieve his goals. This video was posted almost a year ago and went viral soon after, but just in case you have not see it yet I'm posting it here. (Thanks to Jay Pitman for the tip.) Back in 2006, Sir Ken Robinson asked us to ponder a fundamental question in this TED Talk: "What's education for?" The implication being that surely one's education is about much more than just preparing to compete for the "best job" possible several years in the future. "Most education is orientated, for better or worse, towards making a living rather than making a life," Laplante says.

The Pursuit of Happiness
Laplante says at the start of his talk that if you ask a young child what they want to be when they grow up, they often reply innocently with "I want to be happy." This really resonated with me, and I'll tell you why. When I was a 4th grader at Central School in Seaside, Oregon I remember the day our teacher Mr. Doyle asked us to think about what we wanted to be when we grow up and to write our answer down on a piece of paper (you know, the kind of lined paper with chucks of wood still in it). My answer was "I want to be happy." At that time in my life I was often yelled at by my troubled father at home. Many nights I was not happy at all, even if I did not know what happiness really was. On some nights I was down right miserable. Anyway, Mr. Doyle collected the papers and then began to read some of the short, poorly spelled answers to the class. Johnny wants to be a fireman. Susan wants to be a teacher. Steve wants to be a professional football player. And Garr wants to be happy. "Be happy!?" The whole class erupts in laughter. Ha! Ha! Ha! I felt like Charlie Brown at the beginning of every Peanuts TV show ever. I am sure if my own dog was in the classroom, he too would have mocked me. It was humiliating. I guess I did not understand that game. For the next few years, then, I would learn to feel guilty about just wanting to be happy, until around the age of 16 when I finally came out of my shell at school and had a very happy home life. It was my beautiful mother and a couple of caring, wonderful high school teachers who helped me learn to be resilient and that happiness was indeed a worthy lifelong pursuit.

• Twitter: @loganlaplante
Hackschooling FaceBook page
Dr. Roger Walsh

Brené Brown on the Power of Empathy

Currently I'm compiling a list of my "Top-10 books for 2014." One of the books I'm including on that list is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by University of Houston research professor Brené Brown. I am a huge Brené Brown fan. I first wrote about her here back in 2011. Her first TEDx Talk (featured on the TED website) has nearly 13 million views now—and she's been on Ophra!. Her message resonates with many, many people, to say the least. In this 21-minute RSA talk Brown says that it's a myth that vulnerability is what makes us weak. Instead, it is the courage to be vulnerable, to take a risk, that leads to deeper connection and engagement. If you do not have 21-minutes to watch the entire talk now, at least watch this animated RSA Short which uses audio from her talk to create something special. This RSA short features a visualization of Brown's ideas regarding the difference between sympathy and empathy, and why it matters. The animation is by Katy Davis (www.gobblynne.com), and it's brilliant.


The Power of Vulnerability (full RSA Talk)
Interesting ideas regarding blame in this talk. Brown suggests that blame is a way of discharging anger. When we are listening to someone's story and attempting to make connections to find out who's to blame then we are not truly listening with empathy. But empathy, says Brown, is not scripted, it's not something you can write a formula for and then say OK go out and be empathetic by following some sort of decision tree. Empathy is about being present and wholly engaged without your protective armour. There are not hard and fast rules for empathy, but Brown says that there is at least one thing for sure: No empathetic response begins with "at least" (Something she explains in the short video above as well as in the longer video below).


Since we're on the subject, what about empathy and storytelling?
Stephen Apkon suggests in his book The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens that good storytellers are, among other things, empathetic. "All good storytellers, in whatever media, are first keen observers of the world around them," he says. "They see nuance and story in the small details of life, and they possess the skills to convey these observations in compelling ways." All good storytellers, then, do not see the world in a kind of solipsistic way but rather have the ability to slow down and see things from other points of view, and more importantly, from another person's particular point of view. In fact, Apkon argues that learning the language and the tools of filmmakers and other visual communicators can teach young people empathy. "[T]here are three primal components to the experience of media—what we see, what we hear, and what we feel....All three together help develop empathy toward and a connection with the character of a story, which informs children's social and emotional development." I do not know if empathy is wholly innate or if it is learned through education; I suspect it's a little of both. Certainly much has been written about empathy and its correlation with high emotional intelligence (See Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ). No matter how empathetic we may think we are today, certainly we can all benefit from becoming more empathetic listeners, communicators and people in general. I'm very grateful for the work that Dr. Brown has done in this field. I'm not quite the communicator—or the person—that I want to be, but the work of Brené Brown and others is helping me on the journey.

Much more great stuff on Brené Brown's website

Presentation Zen Design (2nd Edition) now available

Presentation_zen_designThe 2nd Edition of Presentation Zen Design is now on sale on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and directly from Peachpit Publishing (which offers a hardcopy/ full digital bundle) The 1st edition of Presentation Zen Design debuted exactly four years ago as a follow-up to Presentation Zen which was published in 2008 (now in 17 different languages and in its 2nd edition as well). Presentation Zen Design (2nd Edition) focuses on teaching basic design principles and techniques to non-designers. The context is presentation visuals but the principles can be applied more widely to other forms of visual communication. Although I did not write it or design it to be a textbook, the 1st edition has nonetheless been used as a textbook, or supplementary book, in communication-related classes at colleges and universities worldwide. The meaning of the term "2nd edition" actually varies wildly. As was the case with the 2nd edition of Presentation Zen, this 2nd edition is not greatly different than the first and will be of most value to those people who never got the 1st edition. While the book is much the same, I spent virtually everyday for months in the Fall refreshing some of the content — cutting some bits and expanding others — and designing what I think is a better book, and a better looking book as well. It's hard to get the look and feel of a hardcopy so I made this 24-second video of the book using Honda's Roadmovies app, a very popular and free visual tool in Japan.

Presentation Zen Design (2nd Edition) from garr reynolds on Vimeo.

Three professional speakers and two presentation professionals have offered their endorsements on the back (or front) of the book. Here's one:

"In this increasingly competitive global economy, you're only as successful as your ability to persuasively sell your ideas. Garr's presentation design techniques have helped me elevate my own presentation slides and I know they'll help you, too. Garr's book is essential for anyone, in any field, who wants to be more, make more, and have more impact."

— Carmine Gallo, Author, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and Talk Like TED

What's new? Should I get the 2nd Edition?
The chapters are the same in this 2nd edition except one new chapter — "Making an Impact With Video" — was added to the elements section. There are some new samples throughout and a general design refresh. The "samples" chapter was cut down a bit and a few new slide decks added. There is a very cool five-page callout section by Nancy Duarte on something new called "slidedocs" which is very interesting. The contributions by leading visual thinkers remain as they were in the 1st edition. The total number of pages is 288, twenty-four more pages than the 1st edition. The 2nd edition is about 80% the same as the 1st edition. If you already have the 1st edition of Presentation Zen Design, then I do not think you really need this 2nd edition. The 2nd edition is a better, cooler book (with a nicer cover), but please do not get this book thinking it's going to be an overhaul of the 1st edition. If you never did get the 1st edition of Presentation Zen Design, however, then I think you will find value in the book.

This is an iPhone snap of page 242-243. I designed the book in Adobe's latest version of InDesign on a MacBook Air connected to a 27-inch Apple display. This spread shows samples slides and some context from a cool little success story from a local Japanese entrepreneur, Akino Ogata. Her slides were created by designer Keiko Nada.

Thank you!
If you have purchased any of my books over the years, I thank you very much indeed. The support from the book and website readers over the years is most humbling. If you have any questions about this book please let me know. Happy New Year!

Order on Amazon
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Order from Peachpit Press


The story of the Charlie Brown Christmas

CharliebrownxmasA Charlie Brown Christmas is the first animated TV special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles Schulz. Most people reading this have surely heard of the animated short, and many others, like myself, have seen it every year since 1965. The animated story has won many awards including an Emmy and a Peabody. I watch it now with my small children here in Japan, but every time I view it I'm taken back to a time when I watched it perched on my mother's knee or plopped down on the living room floor in front of our RCA Color TV with a remote control the size of an aircraft carrier (at least we never lost it). The show is a classic, but you may not know of its humble and rather improbable beginnings. When you have a chance, take some time to watch this short documentary on the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The history surrounding its creation is quite a journey and a great story in itself and there are lessons in there about resilience, perseverance, risk taking, authenticity, storytelling, and of course, creativity. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Trivia bonus
At the two-minute mark of the first scene Snoopy spins Linus and Charlie on the ice sending them both sailing, but we only see Charlie Brown landing and hitting a tree as the title fades in. What happened to Linus? Well, the first season it aired in December of 1965 Coca-Cola was the sponsor so Linus actually bumps into a snow-covered sign that says "brought to you by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola" before fading to commercial. After 1965 those few moments were cut since Coke was no longer the sponsor. Thankfully those moments live on in YouTube.

Sir Ken Robinson gives best talk yet at TED Talks Education

Sir_ken_frontCreativity and education expert Sir Ken Robinson delivered two amazingly popular TED Talks prior to 2013. His first talk—presented sans multimedia in the true Sir Ken Robinson style — was made in 2006 and is the most viewed TED talk of all time. His follow-up talk given in 2010 also has been downloaded millions of times. I have seen Sir Ken speak many times and he is always inspiring and engaging, but his latest TED talk, presented at TED Talks Education in April of this year, is my favorite yet. Good presentation is a balance of information, persuasion, and inspiration. Presentations related to leadership must necessarily light a spark and point the way. Sir Ken does not scream or jump up and down but he nonetheless ignites, provokes, and inspires his live audience, and anyone else who cares to listen to his presentation on line, in a meaningful and memorable way. Millions of people have seen his latest talk, but just in case you have not, please set aside about 20 minutes to watch this outstanding, albeit short, talk below.

One of my new favorite TED Talks: Sir Ken Robinson in 2013

Quotables from this great talk
I increasingly speak on the topic of 21st-century education in Japan and abroad so I have a keen interest in Robinson's ideas, and I know you do as well. To help me remember some of Sir Ken's key statements in this talk, I chose several of his statements and put them in slide form below (on Slideshare.net). I have shared videos related to Finland's great success in education before. Therefore, the passages I chose for inclusion below do not touch on his statements concerning the lessons learned from the Finnish system (you'll have to watch his talk or read the transcripts for those points). The slides are in PDF form and may be downloaded. On slideshare you can easily cut and paste any of the passages (scroll down the page on slideshare.) I hope these simple quotes help you share Sir Ken Robinson's message and get the conversation rolling.

Alex Kerr's illuminating presentation on sustainable tourism

One of my favorite talks from TEDKyoto 2013 was the one presented by Japanologist and award-winning author Alex Kerr. If you have any interest at all in Japanese culture, design, and lessons in sustainability then I think you will find this talk fascinating indeed. Alex structured his presentation very simply, first illuminating the problem and then taking us on a journey exploring some solutions to that problem. Visually, I liked what Alex did by keeping text to an absolute minimum and using stunning images that were, for the most part, beautiful full-screen images that filled the 16:9 frame and helped take the audience along on his journey. Alex Kerr's low-key, thoughtful, and visual presentation is a good example of the modern short-form presentation zen style. And the content of his talk provides many valuable lessons in sustainable tourism and beyond.

The power of visual comparison: Before/After & Now/Then, etc.
A common mistake people make with visuals is that they include photos that are too small. One thing I liked about Alex's talk was that his visuals included high-quality photos of his work that filled the entire screen (there were some exceptions). Alex also used a simple technique of showing Before/After photos in a way that made things instantly clear, showing a great transformation. The examples below were not shown side by side, but rather a "Before" photo is shown and then the "After" photo fades in to illustrate the dramatic change.

Kerr1 ArrowKerr2
Kerr_3 ArrowKerr_4
The "after" photos on the right faded in (cross dissolve) which had a dramatic effect in this presentation.

Alex Kerr presenting on stage at TEDxKyoto 2013.

Kurt Vonnegut on why art matters for everyone.

Kurt_vKurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) was one of the truly great American writers of our time. In 2006, when Vonnegut was 84, a few students at Xavier High School in New York sent letters to the the legendary author asking him to visit their class. The fact that Vonnegut actually replied shows what a thoughtful and kind man he was. Vonnegut politely declined the invitation with humor and with grace: "I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana," wrote Vonnegut. However, his letter offered beautiful wisdom and advice for these young students. You can see the entire letter on the Letters of Note website. Below is the bit that spoke to me (emphasis is Vonnegut's):
"Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow."

                                                                — Kurt Vonnegut
You'll never get a job doing that!
Around the world, mass school systems still do not understand the role of art in developing a child's mind. Yes, they sometimes pay lip service to the importance of art education, and then art is the first thing to go when money is tight. Participating in the arts—learning to play an instrument or to express yourself through painting, writing, acting, etc.—are valuable not because they allow you to tick a box on a job application ten years in the future, the arts are valuable in and of themselves. What is a life without art in it? What is a school worth without a deep commitment to the whole mind (and body) of the student, which includes art. "You'll never get a job doing that" is something I actually heard in high school when I spent so much energy on music. Later I heard the same thing from business or engineering students when I was getting a degree in Philosophy from OSU. Looking back, I do not regret spending so much energy on music, my only regret is that I did not spend *more* energy exploring other disciplines in the arts. I think I would be a much better public speaker today, for example, if I would have studied drama and put myself up on a stage acting in front of a large audience, one of the scariest things one can do. 
"You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not going to be a musician; don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice—now, profoundly mistaken." 

                                                                   — Sir Ken Robinson

The role of art & music in education
Quincy The advice from Kurt Vonnegut ties in nicely with a piece that came out a couple of years ago by Quincy Jones called Arts Education in America. Quincy asks "...can we really run the risk of becoming a culturally bankrupt nation because we have not inserted a curriculum into our educational institutions that will teach and nurture creativity in our children?" The most interesting part of Quincy's article were the words taken from the 1943 War Department Education Manual EM 603 that got its recommendations on jazz completely wrong. (Read it — you'll be amazed.) Kind of makes you wonder what else — in spite of good intentions — our educational institutions and leaders are getting completely wrong today? If our recommendations are based on the assumptions that science is not a place for creative thinking or that the arts/humanities have no room for analysis and logic or that students need to make a choice about what kind of person they are — logical or intuitive — then something tells me we're getting it wrong. We need both science and the arts...and we need to do better teaching both.

"It has been proven time and time again in countless studies that students who actively participate in arts education are twice as likely to read for pleasure, have strengthened problem-solving and critical thinking skills, are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair...."
                                                         — Quincy Jones

Above: Slide with famous Picasso quote featuring a photo of my son banging on the drums before he was old enough to walk.


Bill Strickland makes change with a slide show
Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
H/T Letters of Note website.

On sharing your own personal story to make a difference

Different_edit_final.008Here are two wonderful examples of telling your own personal story on stage. These two examples below are from the recent TEDxKyoto 2013 event which I attended. In storytelling, the key is to make sure your message is about the audience, not about yourself. This may seem counter intuitive when you are telling your own story, when you are talking about your own life, but it's actually not so hard. However, when I say "about your audience," I really mean *for* your audience. Even when you are sharing aspects of your own life, it's in the spirit of contribution. The best presentations are always about contribution. The important thing is to choose a theme from your own life that is clearly relevant for the audience. Whether your aim is to inform, inspire, or to persuade—or a mix of all of these—your theme should be something which people can relate to, something they can take away with them and ponder. In both cases below, the presenters tell you what happened in their past to bring them to where they are today, but those details, however interesting they may be, are not the key theme. The particulars of the events are not the main point to takeway. For example, Patrick Linehan's point really has nothing to do with being a gay man. Similarly, Megumi Nishikura's message is not only for those in biracial/bicultural families. The themes of both presenters are really for anyone who has struggled with feeling "different" or feeling alienated and alone (which would include just about everyone at some point). The theme of embracing one's own difference—and the resilience needed to do so—is a message for almost everyone. These talks clearly resonated with the largely Japanese audience in Kyoto, I hope they resonate with you as well.

Embracing Different: Patrick Linehan at TEDxKyoto 2013
TEDxKyoto curator Prof. Jay Klaphake and I worked with Patrick a few times on his story and his delivery. Jay worked with Patrick more than I did. I created the slides to have a vintage photo album or scrapbook feel since Patrick simply wanted to show some old photos and project a few key words. So the visuals were kept minimal, large, and very simple. The screen was massive so all 1500 in attendance could easily see the old snapshots on the canvas behind Patrick. Although the video does not show it, the audience all stood and gave Patrick a very long ovation, one of the loudest and longest of the day. (YouTube link.)

Different1   Different_1
Patrick Linehan on stage at TEDxKyoto 2013.

Explorations into being Hafu: Megumi Nishikura at TEDxKyoto 2013
Megumi is a young filmmaker who grew up in Japan and the USA. She was born in Japan to a Japanese father and an Irish-American mother. Perhaps it's because I'm a member of a bicultural/biracial/bilingual family myself, but Megumi's talk very much resonated with me. I loved her delivery and her mix of snapshots of her past growing up in Japan and the USA. She was so inspired by her experience she created a feature film called "Hafu." Although Megumi's and Patrick's talks are very different in content, they share a similar and power theme that is relevant for everyone. (YouTube link.)

Hafu   Hafu2
Megumi Nishikura's talk visually contained a mix of short bilingual messages and photographs (and her movie trailer).

See more TEDxKyoto talks.
TEDxKyoto on Flickr.


Talking about Presentation Zen with my publisher

Publisher_familyIn August, the family and I flew across the Pacific to California to see friends and family up and down the West Coast of the USA and Canada. On one of those beautiful sunny days, we were invited to drop by the new and very awesome studios of Peachpit Press, which moved from its longtime home in Berkeley to its new offices right on the bay in San Francisco. It's a gorgeous location. While my wife and kids were checking out the Americas Cup down the street, my publisher Nancy Ruenzel and I sat down for a chat in the Peachpit Press studio. We talked about presentations, TED talks, Japan, etc. It's hard to believe that it has been six years since Peachpit Published my first book, Presentation Zen. The 2nd edition of Presentation Zen Design is the 6th project I have now done with them. Really great people. (The photo above is at the front door of Peachpit Press. We were surprised to see the welcome message "いらっしゃいませ!").


Watch the interview (clicking above will take you to the interview on the Peachpit website).

Presentation on Resilience

Bamboo_poster_picNext Friday (October 4) I will be presenting for the ACCJ (American Chamber of Commerce Japan) at the Hyatt Regency Osaka. This event is exclusively for members and for their invited guests. However, if you are not a member and would like attend — assuming you will be in Osaka, Japan next week — then you may contact the Kansai office of ACCJ directly here by email to request a seat. This is not a public event, but if you will be in Osaka next week, you may be interested in attending. The price for members is ¥8,000 and ¥10,500 for guests. You can find more information here on the ACCJ website. This interactive and visual presentation, which includes dinner in the beautiful Hyatt Regency Osaka's Sanctuary Kagayaki Hall, will incorporate some of the new findings in the science of resilience along with a look at the myriad lessons from the bamboo.

Title "Be Like the Bamboo: The Art & Science of Resilience"
6:00 - 6:30pm Registration starts, mingling, drinks
6:30 - 7:15pm Dinner & Networking
7:15 - 8:30pm Presentation & Workshop
8:30 - 9:00pm Discussion and Networking

Send email to:  [email protected]

360 degree visuals
Yesterday I checked out the venue down by the bay at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Osaka Hotel. The hotel is fantastic and the presentation room is quite special.The room will have a view of the gardens during dinner which are illuminated at night. Just before the presentation begins, the shades come down and video of swaying bamboo fills the entire wall, 360 degrees. There are four large 16:9 screens for the projected slides during the talk. Below you can see some of the pics we took during rehearsal (click for larger size). It's a remarkable place to present. Sort of like being in the middle of a bamboo forest. Hope to see you there next Friday.


Bamboo_screen  Bamboo_room2
Testing the projection systems at the Hyatt Regency Osaka's Sanctuary Kagayaki Hall for next Friday's presentation.  

Here are a few photos from the actual presentation. It was really a fantastic evening. Thanks very much indeed to everyone for attending.


Bamboo_2  Bamboo_3