Contributed by: Show Editorial Team
Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Zoe Jenkins, Steering Committee Chair for Civics 2030, and Noor Myran, Founding Fellow of the 2020 CU Fellowship
- Civics Unplugged hosts first Trek Session with Gen Z community on life design
- Prominent Gen Z figure discuss what a successful future is to them and how to think critically
- Future leaders of America discuss college, higher education, and corporate America and how the institutions are evolving
Brought to you by: Humanity 2.0 – a Non-Profit (Non-Government Organization) focused on identifying and removing the most significant impediments to human flourishing through technology and thought-leadership in collaboration with the Holy See (Vatican).
Special consideration; to CommPro Worldwide for their PR and media support
INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Zoe Jenkins, Steering Committee Chair for Civics 2030, and Noor Myran, Founding Fellow of the 2020 CU Fellowship
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:01:
All right. Thank you, Madison, Zoe and Noor for joining for the first ever group think session. This is going to be an evolutionary process. It’s weird for me even to give this intro as if we’re talking to someone hello, whoever’s watching this for some reason. So, why are we doing this? We’re trying to document our own personal, our interpersonal group evolutions because it’s cool to see people change over time and to see the dynamics between people changing too. We want to spark insight in anyone participating right now and watching in the future. This will help us learn more about each other. It won’t be the same people every time. But you’re seeing a lot of recurring cast members and it’s a great way for us to kind of just showcase what we’re all about at CU answer some questions we find relevant and spark new questions that could allow us to figure out what other group think sessions might we want to do? So, we spent a little bit of time trying to decide what our first topic would be just cause it’s so all-encompassing and it would easily spark lots of questions that we won’t be able to cover all in this session, which is kind of a good thing. We decided to pick life design. So Madison, if you don’t mind just pulling it up and let’s see what happens. Let’s talk.
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:52:
Okay. So, do we want to start with like a question? Anyone have a question they want to pose?
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 02:08:
I have one, I guess, what does life design mean to you? Cause that looks very different for different people at different times in their lives.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 02:18:
A hundred percent. Anyone want to go first?
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 02:43:
Yeah. my name is Noor Myran. I’m 16 years old. I’m from Chicago. And I was one of the founding fellows in last year’s 2020 fellowship. To me, life design, at least a huge part of it is like being able to reflect on your day. And I feel like that’s always a good starting point just because if you don’t know like what problems you’re having, you won’t know how to solve them. And then thoughts like have a better and more fulfilling life. So, one thing that Gary recommended, I think like a month ago was the app called Daylio. And I think I’m at like a 32-day streak right now.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 03:25:
Noor, what is Daylio for the viewers?
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 03:29:
It’s like a tracking habit type app, and it basically gives you like five options for like, how you’re feeling. And you can fill in specific things you did that day. So it’s cool to notice like certain trends. And I actually put jam sessions as one of like the little activities for the day. And every time I have a jam session in the day, my mood is like always better than it is when I’m just finishing homework.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 03:54:
And what is a jam session?
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 03:57:
It’s just like a meeting of some sort and a collaborations space for people in the CU community to just talk and like bounce ideas off each other and go in without like a specific mission other than to like, have a better understanding of whatever it is you talk about. Yeah, just like a creative space to answer a question or problem solve and have dialogue.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 04:25:
Awesome. I love how much you emphasized the importance of reflection in life design because how do you know what to design if you don’t think about your own situation, who you are and what problems you’re having, anyone else have a kind of a definition of what life design is?
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 04:52:
Sure. I guess I’ll give a quick intro too, for sure. So my name is Zoe Jenkins. I was also a founding fellow in 2020. And for me, life design just really means like optimization of like, how can I be my happiest self? So I think Noor hit on a lot of those things. And they’re just things I think I’ve noticed where it’s like, Oh, these are things that really like, it really makes me happy when I have just an hour at the end of the day where I’m not on my phone, I’m just reading and just getting ready for bed. And it just helps me sleep better than I wake up feeling better. And then that’s, you know, a whole better day to come.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 05:43:
Because I think there’s a lot, a lot of like early high school was just a lot of go, go, go of like, take all the AP classes you can possibly take, and you need to be at these kinds of social events. If you want to get this kind of social capital, then I guess, figuring out like what actually makes you happy versus what you think is going to make you happy, I think is really important. And it’s not just time management. I think it’s also just, you know, like figuring out what relationships are important to you. Cause that was something I struggled with I think in early high school was that I wanted everyone to like me. And so I did a lot of things to try and make people like me where I was like, wow. I was like, I’m actually not happy at the end of the day with who I am, because I’m trying to fit in with a lot of different people that don’t like really need to fit in with. So just, you know, optimizing to get, I guess, a better version of you because that makes other people better too.
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 06:33:
Yeah. So that’s a really interesting point. I’m Madison. I was also a founding fellow. So like talking about figuring out what you think will make you happy and what actually makes you happy. That’s something also that Daylio has kind of helped me with kind of like evaluating about like the activities that I did during the day and how I actually feel at the end of the day, because I was always talking about this with Gary it’s like society, like kind of teaches us or like tells us what we think should make us happy, like certain activities. But it’s interesting, like at the end of the day to think about how you feel in each day and evaluate how you spent your time and how that correlates to your actual happiness.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 07:34:
Love it. Yeah. So, feel free to kind of document what you just said. I like how I liked the emphasis. It’s awesome that we’re able to kind of get our own definitions out because I was thinking more in terms of the term, but, but how do you know how to design the short term without the long-term vision for what your life might look like? And I think a big reason why it’s so paralyzing in the short term to figure out what constitutes a good week like a self-defined good week, not one that you’re a teacher or administrator or mom or dad or guardian thinks is a good week. Like how do you know if you’re inching towards a future that of your dreams, if you have never been invited to, or given space to it or encouraged to think about your future self and not just like your future as a freshman in college, but when you’re in, it may seem far out to you, but when you’re 10 years older, right.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 09:06:
Or when you’re 30 is that because I can, I can assure you that some of the most talented friends that I have, because they just, you know, to Zoe’s point just followed in the footsteps of whoever or just almost did whatever everyone else thought was fine. Right. They did the most conservative thing. Right. Like whatever everyone else thought was. Okay. So no one would judge them. There’s some of those unhappy people. Just to kind of close that loop. The we liked design is just about being happy now and in the long-term.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 10:08:
And I was going to say, Gary, you should also introduce yourself.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 10:12:
So true. So true. I’m Gary, I’m one of the co-founders of civics unplugged. I live in New York. I left my job at Google. I was there for four years, a year and a half ago to help start this thing. And it’s been a completely transformative experience. I mean, I think the way that we think about education is really broken and, you know, I’ve almost certainly gotten a lot more from Zoe, Madison, Noor and so many others and they have from me.
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 10:59:
Just to Gary’s point, I think like the idea of taking like a very traditional route is like, it’s almost like a safety that we’ve been told to like rely on. Cause that’s like, you know, that’s the core and that’s not going to leave you. And that’s why I think a huge part of like life design and specifically to reflection is that you’re doing it on your own, at least the start, just because when you’re talking with other people about like how your week went or like what your goals are it’s really easy to, like, at least for me, it was really easy to fall into the trap of like, this person is going to enjoy, if I tell them that I had a really good week or that like my teacher is going to love that I told her, I love the project that we did. Like being able to understand that like your own reflection can be something private to you so that you actually are honest. It’s something that helped me to, at least at this part.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 11:40:
I think to Noor’s point, it’s really important to evaluate the people that you are reflecting with. Because I think, you know, you often have, you know, confidence, people that you trust, people, you look up to who you want, that you want them to help you make a decision about your life. But it’s really important to take time to think, why are they giving me that advice? Is that really what I want to do? And I guess to tend to say another tell another personal anecdote of, you know, actually leaving my high school and just figuring out, like, what is it like to be homeschooled out of this like magnet program. I’ve been in magnet programs all through K through 12 and like, what is it like to just like, figure it out and figure out what school looks like.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 12:40:
And so it’s always interesting to me. I think that some of my friends who I asked about it were like, that’s like the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. They’re like, why would you give up all of the opportunities that this program is giving you? They were like, you have been doing so well in this program. Your grades are so good. Why would you want to leave? But then I actually talked to someone who I had not talked to very much. She went to my same high school and he was like, yeah, no, he’s like, get out of there. He was like, that’s not the place for you. He was like, if you think you can find something better being homeschooled, charting, going path, he’s like do it because he was like, that school is going to miss you a whole lot more than you’re going to miss that school. Which was really good advice that I really needed to hear
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 13:27:
Obvious to. Kind of all three of us that last point about the school missing you more. And I think something that I find myself saying again and again, is that the traditional schooling system gaslights you into thinking the kind of opposite of what you should be thinking for many things. And just to Zoe’s point, just to hammer it home what is your guidance counselor in your high school paid to do? They’re paid to say that the school was responsible for you getting into this brand name college, right? They’re, they’re not accountable if you don’t enjoy the college experience. They’re not accountable if you fall into student debt that takes decades to pay off. But they have a narrative. But they get to say that they, that they got a bunch of Ivy league kids or kids that went to top 25 schools. So, always kind of filtering everything, including whatever I say, right. Through a, a lens about what they want. Ultimately like, you know, I try to suggest things or just lay out context about like, okay, the world, like you’re right. The world is kind of burning down. I mean, just look at California.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 15:36:
You can kind of just look at the sky, but more generally we are, I guess, just to really select design has never been more uncertain how the world is going to unfold, how the future is going to unfold. What we can be we’ll we can be certain of is that there are more existential risks that are kind of cascading with each other, right. And the more and more people have access to exponentially dangerous technologies. It used to be that like Soviet Union and the United States had access to technologies that could threaten life on this planet for everyone. Now, like people can kind of 3D print, like, you know, just even just to point out one type of risk, right. Nuclear fallout, right? Like more, the number of people that can create that can single handedly causes is on an exponential curve. We live in an exponential time. And then all these different actors that have more and more power are creating more and more changes that are also on this exponential curve.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 16:44:
So, so how do you design your life to continually make sense of these unprecedented changes? And it’s like, the word isn’t even strong enough unprecedented could mean. Unprecedented could mean in the 1980s, there was like X amount of change. And then there’s like 1% more unprecedented, right? This is like, not even close like a year from now. Like no one can predict what happens a year from now. That’s not something no one can predict like that. Like how much violence or non-violence, or kind of Wars that break out in the world. It just so it’s so unstable. Right. And, and I guess one of the other things that is more certain than ever is that people that are extremely empathetic and capable such as you three are needed to do any number of things related to weaving people together and making the systems more stable. Right.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 17:47:
And then just overall the metaphor that people like to use is increase the civic health of the world. And before it was actually more possible for you to just care about the civic health right. Of like your neighborhood city state. But if civic health is bad in Bangladesh, right. And like that can create worldwide cascades of, you know, a refugee crisis or again, nuclear fallout, right? Like you have a vested interest in picking a sort of career path that is, I guess, inspires people to believe in the beloved community. Right. So, I think we’re kind of saying a lot of things right now, but I almost feel like we’re past the age of, I think for people like you we’re past the age of like, my role is I’m a lawyer and I focus on one little thing that my boss tells me to do.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 19:11:
Right. You know, you have a lot of things that call for your talents, right? You have a lot of talents that you need to cultivate. You have a big responsibility to cultivate all sorts of talents and know a lot of things just cause like you can’t just like, know about like political science without knowing about technology. Right. Because we know that those are intersected now, right. You have to know about world cultures, you have to know about in buyer and environmental crises. Right. Cause that affects politics. Everything affects everything now. So part of life design maybe is you’re going to write this down Madison. You know, one thing you have to bake in is learning constantly.
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 20:11:
To that point I think we talked about this a little bit. It’s like the way that the education system like teaches you to think about your future is like really linear. It’s like, so when you think about your future, you need to think about basically two things. Are you going to go to college and what’s going to be your job ultimately? And I think when you position it like that, then it’s like the line of thinking that you were talking about, where you’re thinking about like, Oh, I’m just going to be a lawyer and I’m just going to do this one little thing. But when you change the approach, to like how people think about their future and like life design as a whole, then I think that it helps solve some of those problems about people just, you know, wanting to like try and solve problems in one area of their life.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 21:07:
Yeah. I think that’s a really good insight, Madison. I mean, anyone can just do a Google search. I think of how often people are changing jobs now. And that’s because we weren’t like in this day and age, we’re not meant to just do one thing in our lives. And we’re just constantly like evolving as human beings. And I guess to answer the question of like, how do you design your life? Well, I think first of all, you can really only design your own. I mean, I think you, you have to focus on you and what makes you happy? Cause I think it’s, I mean, it’s been very clear to me that like, when like I’m at my best, like I’m able to get other people to be at their best and vice versa. It’s like, if you’re in a room of a bunch of people who can’t manage their time, who are distressed about everything, you aren’t getting enough sleep at night. Like that’s not a productive group of people, but you need people who are really excited to be around other people who are really passionate and are excited to bring others along. And you start that domino effect by being that person first. So I think it’s really important to be the best you, you can be first.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 22:18:
This is why Zoe’s official title is CEO of global democracy and education. Still waiting for the LinkedIn profile title change.
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 22:37:
For my junior year, last year. And I know we’ve talked about this before, but I had to take like a career, like what career suits you best based off of like what you’re good at and what you’re interested in. And like, aside from the fact that people got careers that were just completely, they didn’t even like at the slightest, it was like, it would ask you such like simple questions and it’s like, not that simple questions are bad, but for what you’re thinking about, like your future having fun, like again, that linear line of thinking of like, Oh, I’m good at this, I’ll do this. It just like, it doesn’t cut it. But to Zoe’s point, like, it’s really interesting to be around people who know what they want, like in all aspects of life. Cause like if they haven’t designed their life, then they’re kind of just going around, just kind of floating and going with the flow. And it’s really hard to be motivated by those people, which is why I feel like CU is such a cool thing. Cause like we were almost forced to design our lives and like figure out what we wanted to do in like the best way possible.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 23:46:
You’re helping figure out a better way because we know we could have done a better job in the first year of fellowship in that regard. And just making it clear that this is it’s not an assignment, this is your life. It’s not just like, you’re not doing this for Gary or Nick, one of our co-founders you’re doing it for yourself and no one has the answer like never before. Has that been more of the case that no one has the answer for what is like you’re kind of continually evolving place in the world.
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 24:26:
I would say also to Zoe’s point about being the best you can be first. I know we stress a lot of personal development at CU, which before I hadn’t really given like a ton of thought to, but it’s super useful to know, like, not only what your values are, but like just critically think about like who you are as a person. And then from there you can think about what we call your U shaped hole, which is basically how you can use like your unique superpowers to make the place. So I just say personal development and learning like really trying to understand who you are and who you want to be is really critical to that.
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 25:14:
And I feel like at the start to like, thinking about my personal development, it’s like, even now it’s like, I’ve described it this way before, but it’s terrifyingly comforting to know that like you are like in the driver’s seat, like you’re in control of literally everything about yourself. But it also gives you that opportunity to, to shift your focus based on what you’re interested in or what, you know you want to do.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 26:07:
Yeah. I’ll say like doing the leadership blueprint was interesting. Especially like the values exercise, I think for me was big because then like, that was actually something I can point to of like, why does that person’s behavior or me, like, why do I not like being around this person? And I can be like, no, I was breaking, like something in my leadership blueprint. I was like, I have values and those values aren’t being upheld by that person And so it’s nice actually having like the language at least internally to be like, no, no, no. I know what I want and I have an issue with that person because I’ve already established what I want. So I feel like it’s a little with that. It’s a little harder to get, I think, caught up in the moment of like trying to do what will make everybody the most happy when it’s like, no, like I’ve laid out some pretty firm ground rules and I’ll have to compromise on that because that’s what I decided.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 26:40:
Well said. So, for the viewer, one thing that we did during the fellowship and it’s going to be a part of the fellowship is Juntos, which are groups of eight to 10 fellows. These are all gen Z years, high school, mostly high schoolers who are there, like their purpose is to develop themselves, but also support each other’s development as civic superheroes. And those ran from January to like May of 2020, but we also started to run experimental ones, post that for our long-term. It’s so limiting to call it alumni community. But people have said that that helps them with their mental models of what is civics 2030. It’s like a long-term alumni community for fellows. And we have had success with Juntos after the fellowship. And you know, just speaking of life design, it’s something I’ve observed. Right. And it’s been cool to see that everyone that’s participated in these Juntos has found a lot of value in it. I think just to even use your own words because they don’t have other people to talk about very real things with and this, you can almost go down the list. It’s like, there are just certain things that you censor yourself with.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 28:39:
If you look at just the people around you, right. You’re not going to tell the full truth to your teachers, your friends that you grew up with since like kindergarten, right. Cause it’s weird to be evolving when other people are not your parents have a very particular idea. Most parents have a very particular idea of who they want you to be. Right. So if you want to divert from that, it’s very hard to, well, you just kind of compartmentalize those like dreams, those aspirations that are divergent.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 29:22:
Just to kind of like step one for designing your life is just to sort out like you were kind of feelings and this is almost like full circle with Noor being able to reflect on your day. Well first, it’s actually a complimentary to be able to, to have other people that, that remind you that you’re not crazy for having certain thoughts that, that, that empowers you to start thinking for yourself, like by yourself, is that resonating with you Noor?
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 29:51:
Yeah. A hundred percent. One of the things Madison talks about or like differentiates. So she’s like I have my friends and then I have the people I have fun with. Like I hang out with and I like spend time with and so like being surrounded by your friends, cause you’re like, you’re oriented around like a specific goal together. Like there’s something calming about like being around people that have the same, like they don’t have, maybe it’s not like a specific aspect of the goal, but overall like betterment of American democracy and cause it ties to so many different things being around people who are continuously trying to get there. First of all, again, it’s like that sanity check of like, I’m not going crazy for wanting to do this, but it’s also like, there are other people with me, like I’m not alone in trying to fix the world which can always get like overwhelming. But Madison’s way of putting it is, is always something I come back to.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 31:02:
What are some big open questions that you have related to your life design right now?
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 31:18
I guess for me it would be like, because I feel like for the past couple of months I’ve been doing pretty good with like design my life and like being really intentional and like trying to be like constantly learning and constantly evolving, but just like wanting to know how to keep that consistency. So I’m having trouble with now.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 31:56:
Yeah, so step one is having the impulse to design your life, like step two or whatever is keeping
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 31:58:
And I’ll say a part of keeping it up, I think is knowing that like, like there are parts of life that you’re just meant to enjoy that like you can’t design every single second of your life because there are things that will happen. That will just be great. You just want to live in the moment. And those experiences I think can be transformational. So that’s something I’ve had to be careful about with my life design is not planning out like every single hour of my day, like having some time where things can just happen. And that free time, I think is sometimes where I have like my biggest revelations where I really make a breakthrough with like a close friend something and I wouldn’t have done that if I had decided to like work instead or like do that school project.
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 32:48:
Yeah. I agree with that. That’s something that like, I don’t really like schedule out my days, but like I have to do lists and I think, I mean, obviously for like needs and stuff, I have a schedule partly, but like, I feel like, like you said, it’s just, I don’t like to know exactly what’s going to happen in my day. Like, I feel like it’s more interesting if I like, if I see like my to-do list and then I like, look, Oh, I feel like doing this right now. So I just pick random things and like do it as the day goes on. But you know, it’s really interesting for sure.
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 33:32:
Another open question I have is like, how do I think more long-term so not necessarily in like in my day, like, what am I doing at 8:00 AM until like 9:00 PM. But that’s something I’ve been struggling with because I just can’t like, I can’t picture like who I am 10 years now. And so I know something that I started with like a little very helped me with glasses, like a vision board almost for like aspects of your life that, you know, you want either to be there to have presence. But I was think like, we’ve been conditioned again, that same thing of like, these are what your next four years look like. And it’s almost like reaching those milestones is more important than fulfilling certain objectives that you have that, you know, would make you fulfilled.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 34:16:
I’ll say Noor that I’ve been struggling with that too. Like I find it really easy to think like, Oh, I want to do this kind of thing, I guess in my life. But I couldn’t tell you like what career I want or what major I should do in college to get there, or even what college I should go to in order to be able to do that thing. But weirdly enough, like I know exactly what kind of dog I want when I’m older. Like I have seen furniture and I’m like, I want this piece of furniture in my future house. So I always find it weird that there’s some things that I can see very clearly and other things where I’m like, I have no idea.
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 34:48
I want a money plant. That’s something I’ve we have them in my childhood and I just they’re so cool, but I don’t know what major I want. So there’s that.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 35:07:
Madison, can you add a question? What are the conventional life design choices that are not even natural to make anymore. So, for example, and you can follow this out major. Or if physical institution that you’re locked into for four years. I mean, college could evolve, right? Like I think it doesn’t have to be four years. Doesn’t have to be locked into a place where, you know, what does it look like for, well, I know that there’s like this one organization called the Minerva schools, which I don’t know enough about, but like apparently like that people go to a new city every semester or something like that. And it’s something to look into seriously. And they have like very practical majors that like are very correlated to more like more like a for profit sort of side careers, but like, so definitely something to look into. But anyways, on the note of major, again, this is kind of tied to my earlier point. Like, is there anything that you can be siloed into anymore? Like are, is anyone that is siloed into like, this is the one thing that I know that is trying to solve a social problem? Are they going to be effective?
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 37:03:
There’s actually a model that my mom talks about cause she works at the university. So she’s always talking about how like the old, like education models that we want students to be teased where like they have like a little bit of knowledge and a bunch of things that they go really deep in one thing. But she was like, we need students to be like W’s or like, like zigzags and things where they have a broad base and everything that they go deep in like more things and just like very surface level.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 37:29:
Right. So to use that mental model of like the broad base or the base, it used to be like, you can be kind of thin, or I don’t know if you, I think you should always have been broad base, but like, I think certainly in the last like 10 years, like there’s like pressure to like learn how to be a software engineer or something. It’s like, ah, just know a tiny bit about how to spell certain words. Like it was like very, very, very slim. And this is like we’re living in an era of tech products that were not developed by people that have cultivated that much character. I’m like not very strong moral development. And this is not like I’m not making a judgment about like, did they have the potential, or do they have the potential to be like, to build moral systems? That’s like, they just did it. Right. They ultimately did it. And so this is what this is the world we’re living in. So do we need any more of a reason to kind of justify being brought about like humanities, in other words, just understanding the human condition and as it’s evolving, but also let’s be real.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 38:50:
Some of the most relevant things that you could know about the modern human condition, as soon as they write a book, it becomes out of date. So, you have to be a lot of your professors have to be YouTube burgers. A lot of them have to be podcasters that are just like talking they’re figuring it out. Madison knows this one of the most important thinkers right now is John Revicky who has spent tons of time trying to explain what he calls the “meaning crisis.” It’s all sort of like an umbrella for the fact that we can’t agree on what truth is. We certainly can’t agree on what the purpose of life is. We can’t agree on. I mean we just like, we are, we’re just kind of in this sort of like info war against each other and we just feel very empty as a society. So, unless you go to the university of Toronto and you are like an apprentice. Or let’s say you didn’t watch his YouTube videos, or you’d have to basically apprentice under him to, to get this like amazing kind of edge of the sphere level kind of state of the art of that thinking.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 40:20:
I mean, think about my own intellectual development, thanks to even just looking at YouTube alone or like I have like 50 mentors that I’ve never talked to, but they upload their dialogues like this. And it’s so helpful because I don’t, I’m not that special. The questions that I have are often asked by the people that they’re dialoguing with. Right. Well that’s the cool thing, but you don’t have to be there in order to get to be on the fly on the wall anymore. So, I guess one question for anyone that’s in high school right now that is really serious about life design, do you have to go to college and if so, how do you make the most out of it? Given the fact that the learning ecosystem like early. I think learning ecosystem is a decent word, I guess just like, there’s all these different things that are like, but there’s out there that you can take advantage of, but, but you have to realize you’re the agent of your future and you have to do the hard thing of like, no one knows what the right path is actually in order to even decide to make a not foolish decision about investing potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, certainly thousands of dollars if you’re not getting a full ride you have to have a plan at least at a starting plan and at least a sort of an idea of what giant problems that you want to at least a small hand in addressing,
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 42:27:
I don’t want to say, like, even before that, this is something Gary said before is like, if you don’t realize that you are being played by the system, like you’ve been played by it or you’ve been cheated about, so like, if you don’t realize that going to college, isn’t going to give you everything that you need in life. Like, I think there needs to be thinking like further thinking. That’s not about that because college, despite like it’s money flies could be a stepping stone to something much larger. If you like, again, treat it right and use the right resources.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 43:06:
Yeah. I’ll say agreeing with what Nora is saying, I guess to answer the question directly, do you have to go to college now? You don’t have to. But I do agree with that. I think they’re just the Nate, I don’t know, it’s a delicate dance. We recognize the flaws of like thinking that we have to go to college, but it’s also like society is set up such that for a lot of careers, you do have to go to college or at least some kind of college. And I think if you do in regards to how to make the most of it pedigree doesn’t really matter. Like if somebody, if that’s all someone cares about, like, if you go to an employer and all they care about, did you go to an Ivy, then you don’t want to work there because that going to an Ivy league is not a measure of how good you’re going to be at that job of the quality of education you got, because your education is what you make of it.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 43:59:
You know, I think at least I remember at least in the magnet program, I went to there’s a lot of people you know, really disparaged community colleges. And they were like, what kind of people go to a community college? Like you have to like flunk out of school to go to community college. And I was like, no, I was like, some of the most successful people in the world went to a community college because your education is what you make of it. I was like, now, if you go to a community college and you don’t go to class, then you know, you’re not getting the most out of that, but that’s the exact same thing that would happen if you went to an Ivy league where you’re paying, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars and aren’t taking your education seriously. So yeah, I think you just have to go somewhere that you know, is going to make you happy and that you’re going to get exactly what you need out of it.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 44:44:
Cause there are a lot of like less involved options or a lot of part-time options, a lot of online, only options that don’t require you to spend like as nearly as much money as if you were on campus. It’s only the more, I guess, elite institutions out there.
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 45:02
Yeah. And so then I would say, I mean, in regards to that is like, if you find yourself saying that you want to go to college for the college experience, then maybe that’s not the best reason to go because I mean, it, it really should be about thinking critically about what you want to do after college. And I feel like since, you know, college has seen us in our future as almost like college is such a big thing. Like it’s almost so hard to see past it. And so w when you’re thinking about your future, you’re just thinking about like that next step college, but you don’t really think about, like, I know a lot of people don’t think about, you know, what college they want to go to, what major they want to major in like, in relation to what they want the rest of their life to look like.
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 45:49:
I think the reason too, that it’s so hard to look further into the future from college is because of like the admissions process. Like it is so hyped up and so like laborious, but it gets to a point where it’s like, if I was spending this much time in my day, trying to get in. Yeah. Like if I’m spending so much time, like reaching this goal, it better be like something that’s will solve all my problems. And so we, we see college in that same way that it’s going to solve all your problems and you’ll figure everything out when you get there. But in reality, like you’re going through this horrible process only to do like, arguably like equally as horrible of work, if you’re not leveraging the right resources that are there for you.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 46:40:
It’s interesting colleges is really at an inflection point because there’s enough people with influence power re like opportunities, resources that are on the hunt to kind of save again, this college could be great for a lot of people, but to like, there’s so much talent that needs to go to saving the planet. And I think we’re at the very beginning of an exponential curve of alternative support systems for people like you three. And I think like it’s great. Cause then it just gives you more options. It gives people like you more options, the point is not to create, just to say colleges fully obsolete, right. It’s going to evolve and that’s great for some of the people that need to start working now because the planet needs them. It’s a toss-up right now. Seriously. And I think just really articulating your values and almost just like even being able to have a conference, like imagine having a conversation with yourself your 2030 self, kind of looking back at okay. Sort of like, I think people like humans are really good at role-playing.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 48:23:
Like, if I did, if I did this, what would my future self-have said? Right. Was it a, was it the, was it the safe route that turned out to not be that safe because nothing is safe? Or did I do the thing that was not even more risky and allowed me to kind of do the sort of thing that has already supercharged my growth at that I’ve only been spending like five to 10 hours a week so far. What does it look like for me to be spending 4X that. So, it’s crazy. How much has changed in the last 10 years? Like so much has changed in the last 10 years.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 49:21:
It might be like weird that like, someone like me who went to Duke basically there, his parent’s kind of dreamed all their lives to, you know, for that moment where I got in right. Then to like the best place to work, Google, is like, even asking these questions to have you all, but the world has changed that much slash the world has revealed itself as being so much like infinitely more fragile than what my peers felt. It was so obvious to us that the best use of our talents was to work for McKinsey was to work for Boston consulting group or Goldman Sachs or Google or Facebook. It was like, you were a God or goddess if you’ve got it to one of these firms, like my generation worshiped, corporate America. Think about how different that is now. And it’s not for no reason. It’s not just like, Oh, it’s the not cool thing to, to want to do corporate stuff. It’s like gen Z grew up with the recognition that millennials didn’t have civic values and didn’t have any civic intelligence, like no recognition of how to how to make like the common world better, or the civic world better and thoughtless. And not that an older generations. So you didn’t get any civic education, your civic education was through Twitter or like Googling stuff, or like, you know, figuring out on your own.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 51:29:
So yeah, it’s tricky because there’s no, there’s no reason for us to wish that college was away because that the idea of kind of advancement post high school was really important. The idea, the old idea of college, like being a feeder into a super stable job, right. With a relatively stable world, that’s gone, but the institutions that were designed based on those assumptions about the world are still there and you’re living in it. You’re getting really pushed by those institutions. Just making sure that you’re not like a generation like my generation. Like, I feel so much fear that Gen Z will be another generation that is lost due to systems corruption. Millennials got screwed. We got manipulated into thinking that there was like a promise land in corporate America. But like even the ones that are like making a little bit of money right now, like, they’re so unhappy. Like so many of them are so unhappy that they’re not doing more for the world right now.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 52:48:
And so, imagine thinking, how do you transition away from that career? Like, like they should, maybe they should be on this call. Cause like, how many of them are like married now? How many of them have kids? Like you see how like, millennials, like really? Like, they, they were, they, it was already like this like blob of a culture. We didn’t, we didn’t really have values. Like we kind of adopted values from older generations. And like, like there was a little bit of activism, but not very effective activism. And then Gen Z has this big opportunity to not be a lost generation. But do you see the, I mean, some of it is some of it’s too late but it’s like, I just think about what can we do every day so that there’s not a whole, like, is there a way to start a conversation about what’s at stake? Not just from, and it’s important, right. We got to think about like the Amazon rainforest a hundred percent. Right. But we have natural resources we have, and that’s even, that’s a bad metaphor. We have people that have so much potential that are, are being oppressed. Their potential is being so suppressed, oppressed. And look, there’s only so much that we can do as, as individuals, but there’s still a lot that, because individuals have a lot of power, especially in this time in the media age. Sorry, that was a nice rant. But anyone have any thoughts on that?
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 54:49:
I think like, again, one of the things that I hopefully like goes back to life design, but like, as Gen Z, like as a generation, like being one of the most empathetic generations, you know, that is something that the future is something that we can control. And regardless of like or not regardless, cause I think like we should use this, like the uncertainty and like the, almost like havoc of like what’s going on in the world right now for like that, that was caused by a plethora of reasons. I think that that should be like a motivating factor aside from like, Gary’s testimonial. Like, you don’t want to live in a world where like the rest of your generation was screwed over because they thought that there was some like, associated with like corporate America. So at like whoever’s listening, I don’t know, I think that’s something to hold onto and draw hope from. But yeah, I have to have dinner in a few minutes.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 55:55:
Yeah, I think, I think we should wrap up anyways. What, what are your thoughts on this first experiment?
Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 56:06:
I thought it went well and good. It felt like one of our normal jam sessions. I think the notion doc helped a lot.
Noor Myran – Founding Fellow, 2020 CU Fellowship: 56:18:
I was going to say, it’s cool to like, someone could listen to this and like, feel differently about something because of it, which is like, that’s a cool thing to think about.
Zoe Jenkins – Steering Committee Chair, Civics 2030: 56:31
I was going to say, I produce a podcast and we do round table episodes and I always get nervous when they’re no pre-prepared questions, but like the questions came in the conversation flowed really well and it didn’t have to be planned out, which is kind of astounding to the like type a plus person within me. That’s like need to plan out every minute. So you have this like gorgeous flow, but it happens organically when you have the right people.
Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 57:02:
Well, that’s a metaphor for how we’re going to make the world slightly better. Right. Make the world slightly more resilient and healthier. It’s not going to come from centralized pre-planning. There’s too much that changes every day. Right. So it’s okay. I’ve learned that one day you can feel so certain about an idea being right, and then you should actually feel proud of yourself for changing your mind because of any number of factors. So awesome. Well, let’s do this again soon. Thanks so much Madison for sort of co-hosting this and taking notes. This is awesome. All right. Have a great rest of your day.
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