American Universities are at the epicenter of a legion of young minds that’ll make a beeline to make a career for themselves.
Young entrepreneurs will evolve from the bedrock of America’s education system.
The future of entrepreneurship in the United States then depends on what’s being taught at universities. The ideas germinating there (and hence being assimilated) will shape the minds of students today and entrepreneurs tomorrow.
But what happens when these youngsters taught to believe something all your life when the total opposite is true? Are these young minds playing to their strengths?
We all grow up under influence — of parents, teachers, peers, and everyone else — and we only hope that the influence they have on us leads us in the right direction.
But all is not well at American universities, our parenting, and the advice (general or specific) that we pass on to our youngsters.
First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt wrote a popular book called The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions & bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure in which they explain how you’ve been taught most things wrong. We here at Fermented Pixels highly recommend this book and the article in The Atlantic of the same title that preceded it.
The entire book revolves around these 3 great untruths — defined by the following characteristics:
- It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas that have been held true and followed across several literatures and cultures)
- It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being, and
- It harms individuals, communities, or societies who embrace it.
With that as the definition of an “Untruth”, the author duo specifically discuss about the three great “untruths” that seem to have spread wings in the recent years:
- What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker — The Untruth of Fragility
- Always trust your feelings — The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning
- Life is a Battle Between good people and Evil people — The Untruth of Us Vs Them
Greg and Jonathan show how these three great untruths — along with the underlying policies, political agendas, and rules that draw upon them — have led to hurt among young people, liberal democracies, and the entire nation per se.
Teen anxieties, inability to accept responsibility, depression, increasing suicide rates, and bad personal financial management are only a few of the repercussions.
All thanks to the spread of these three untruths across schools, colleges, universities, politics or ruling administration, and in business.
As if all that wasn’t enough, these untruths have now travelled across the English-speaking world and affecting everything from people to entire democracies as we speak.
We believe that those three untruths also affect us adults (since it’s these schools and universities that start at too) rolling into various political, administrative, and business roles.
In short, these three untruths affect us all.
Untruths like these shape you into what you’d rather not become. They’d make you prejudiced, weak, shallow, and closed.
If that is true, it’d be hard to raise successful entrepreneurs, administrators, teachers, or politicians if such ideas are propagated.
These untruths — along with wrong perceptions, thoughts, ideas, and a wrong set of values among other human fallacies — can stunt your growth especially as future entrepreneurs.
These Untruths have the potential to affect us so much that we — as a society — become weak, intolerant, fragile, unaccepting of each others’ unique nuances, and accept no responsibility for our own self-development and progress.
As individuals begin to perceive, think, and act this way, entire societies and cultures are affected with a staggering, cascading effect.
Here’s what the three untruths can unleash:
Zero capacity for resilience
The first untruth — The Untruth of Fragility — goes something like this: “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker”.
This is intrinsically training all of us to be weak.
Thanks to being “weak, we become more averse to risks.
Our primitive and ancient brain that evolved from the very basic “fight or flight” thing is now reduced to “Don’t even go anywhere there”.
For entrepreneurship, specifically, the inability to take risks can hurt. In fact, risk-taking is the foundation of entrepreneurship.
As entrepreneurs, the ability to stand up on our feet will reduce. Our risk appetite will wane. Our ability to think on our feet will almost be non-existent, and the our in-built survivalist nature is at risk.
As parents, we are increasingly protective of our children. As teachers, we refrain from stating the facts and letting children know the truth.
As a society, we are more worried now when there’s really nothing much to worry about.
Instead of letting young people stand on their own feet, face adversity, sense danger, and develop the ability to think for ourselves, the “systems” we’ve come to believe in push us into comfort zones.
If youngsters want to launch businesses from their dorm rooms, a string of stories reflecting startup failures are quickly presented to them to discourage them from starting something they can be proud of (even if they fail).
In the book, Jonathan writes:
“When we protect children from unpleasantness, from conflicts, from insults, from teasing, from exclusion, we’re preventing their social psychology, we’re preventing their social abilities, we’re preventing their strength from developing,”
We cannot develop resilience unless we are a little rough around the edges and pushed off a cliff. We can’t grow if we don’t do our share of mistakes. Our youth will fail to develop resilience when we over protect them.
A 2017 study of psychological resilience points out that we get more resilient when we “provide” support instead of waiting around the halls to “get support”.
Our children can barely support themselves. How will they be expect to provide support to others?
Another study claims that over 67.7% of military veterans are known to be truly resilient attributing to several factors such as extraversion, emotional stability, gratitude, altruism, a purpose in life, and more.
Our students and our youth don’t get trained like military folks do, though.
As Greg and Jonathan rightly point out,
“Many students are learning to think in distorted ways. This increases their likelihood of becoming fragile, anxious, and easily hurt”
It’d be ideal if our youth can learn to stand up and fight. It’d be great to see them rally for the right cause or take a stand on any point whatsoever.
We can grow as a strong nation when our young population can handle negative feedback, rejection and differences of opinion.
Our youngsters become more resilient and capable when they can spring back from any degree of failure and they’ve all effectively learned move on, despite all odds.
All these qualities are not taught in schools or in the general academia. For entrepreneurship though, these qualities are crucial.
Entrepreneurs will have a bedrock of rejection behind every successful milestone that they achieve, all their lives. Business owners need to learn to multitask, take rejection, handle crisis, and manage people.
Our youth cannot afford to be fragile, and now you can see why.
Letting feelings rule over practicality
The untruth of emotional reasoning — the second major untruth — which is “Always trust your feelings” is yet another one of those pieces of advice several young people get.
“Always Trust Your Feelings” makes one believe that we can never question our feelings. You cannot stop and question your feelings.
Our own experiences, however, teach us to manage our feelings and emotions. At best, feelings are critical for us to learn to guide ourselves.
Our children should let their feelings guide them. Only that they should be made to understand that their feelings cannot be absolute.
We can’t let our children make their “feelings” dictate their lives.
Meanwhile, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) advocates the complete opposite of this untruth.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) suggests that our feelings often mislead us. Also, you can’t achieve any respectable degree of mental health if you don’t begin to question your feelings often.
We humans have the remarkable ability to believe in what we want to believe in. As such, we are all vulnerable. If you just go with your “feelings”, you aren’t looking at the world objectively enough.
You feel that technology is more complex than you’d like and hence not choose to use it for your business, you’re going to miss the bus.
If you “feel” this way or that way about your employees, partners, vendors, and other stakeholders, you are not letting yourself get the best out of them at all.
If you let your feelings rule you and if you take them as absolute truth, it’s harder to be an effective leader when you run your business as a modern-day entrepreneur.
If you just had to “feel” — as if its absolute — you’ll struggle to make the best of the bold new opportunities available to you globally.
Digging yourself into a silo
The untruth of Us Vs Them — the third major untruth — is designed to make you think that the world is made of two absolute groups of people: good and bad.
Humanity is complex. It cannot be divided into something as simple as good and bad. Good people think that bad people are bad. Bad people think that good people are bad as well.
And so, it goes in circles.
The truth of humanity is that we’ve all been good or bad at sometime or the other. Categorizing more than 6+ billion people into two groups is not possible.
Here’s the reality of the Us Vs Them mentality: It’s called group thinking.
Thinking in this manner causes to act irrationally: We become selfish, uncooperative, rude, prejudiced, inward-focused, and we are more concerned about conforming with our group instead of thinking intelligently for ourselves.
We stop recognizing other people’s interests and appreciate values outside of our own social circle.
Following the third untruth makes you dig yourself into a silo. You’d start judging people and tag them as “superior” or “inferior” — this doesn’t make you feel any better or worse, though. It only makes you judgemental.
It’s this group thinking — the Us Vs them — that’s leading to all sorts of issues. Racism, bullying, conflicts on campus in the context of America’s rapidly rising political polarization, America’s top-level political issues, and a rise in hate crimes and off-campus provocation.
This specific untruth is causing a global disinterest in American foreign policy, a dissent among the multi-cultural thread of Americans who are official citizens of the country, and several other problems.
Globalization is the the contemporary entrepreneurial opportunity you now have. With the “Us Vs Them” thinking, you might just refuse to work with companies in China, India, Taiwan, and Eastern Europe.
If you believe in “group thinking” — the fundamental premise of the third untruth — you’ll not be able to take advantage of the multi-talented, multi-geo, borderless world you live in.
The future of all people associated with universities, colleges, and modern startups, and incumbent businesses across nations already have enough problems to deal with.
Fearful parenting leading to incomplete development of their children, planting the seeds of prejudice into nubile minds just coming out of universities, and a general unpreparedness for the demanding and global job scenario are already a looming problem we have to solve.
The fast-paced technology throws more complexities and challenges for learning and adapting while we have half-truths, untruths, and complete hogwash raiding us at the prime of our learning.
We are letting young minds absorb untruths such as the ones above as a part of their education and self-development.
We are putting them on the wrong train while shaping them up to be future citizens, politicians, teachers, educators, administrators, and entrepreneurs.
It’d be better if our youth can learn to cope, to grow, to manage, and to succeed against all odds. It’d be nice to have a youth with a positive frame of mind, a healthier outlook to their own well-being, and a balanced view of the world they find themselves in.