Alright, I've been putting it off for long enough. It's time to start writing about what I really want to be writing about. Don't get me wrong, I love sports, and I love fiction, and I love writing about sports and writing about writing fiction (and writing ficiton).
This website isn't called A Hitchiker's Guide to Reality (the GUIDE for short) because of my thoughts about sports and fiction.
Alright then, Ryan, you might be thinking, why is it called A Hitchhiker's Guide to Reality?.
Well, I have been working my way through the various layers of the GUIDE for several years now, but I think it it all really started while I was in college the first time through. I was working as a youth pastor when I had a startling realization.
I realized that I was wildly out of my depth. I had no idea either what I was doing, or what I was supposed to be doing. Some of you might even know how that feels.
I had always been a bookish kid, and I'm sure that some of that is because, with my Apergers, books were about 3000 times easier to understand than people were. The Bible was a great book for me because it had so many different parts, it was like a puzzle that you could keep trying to fit all the pieces together for decades.
I was good at reading, really good, and I was decent at explaining things even at a young age. I thought being a youth pastor would be pretty simple, because I was familiar with the book and could just explain it in little chunks at a time.
Yeah, it didn't really work out that way. I eventually gave up on being a youth pastor, and switched to coaching soccer. This switch was partially because I love soccer, and the life of a soccer coach involved watching the game (a lot), travelling (often), and meeting famous athletes (on occasion). It also was because I felt like coaching soccer was easier than trying to help youth become the person they were going to be, or the person the old book suggested they should be.
I had a lot of fun, and a little success, as a soccer coach. I understood the game, and I was still good at explaining things. Eventually, I ran into some difficulties, many of the same kind of difficulties that I had had as a youth pastor.
It wasn't until I was at some coaching clinic or another, one that had a bunch of little inspirational quotes embedded in all the literature they handed out, that I ran into the quote that changed my whole perspective, setting me on the course back to school to study psychology and systems of development. It was a simple quote attributed to the winningest coach in American sports history, when asked how he did such a consistent job of producing great basketball players.
I'm not in the business of making basketball players, I'm in the business of making young men using the game of basketball.
That quote set my whole world on it's ear. I was good at soccer, I understood soccer, but people? I wasn't even aware of having Aspergers at the time, but I knew that I was NOT good with people.
But I also knew that I was good at learning, and reading, so I started learning, reading lots of books on psychology and development, going to seminars, and eventually getting a couple of degrees. In the course of my studies, I regularly had one thought, over and over again: why didn't anyone teach me any of this when I was fourteen?!?!
The thing is, I am pretty sure that I'm not the only one who didn't invest the time necessary to become an expert in human development BEFORE being assigned a group of humans to develop.
Most of us spend our time becoming experts in other things, software development, mechanical engineering, farming, whatever, and then one day it happens. Your skills and expertise become recognized and now you get the blessing and the curse of being promoted to some kind of managerial position.
Now, just like Wooden, you are no longer (just) in the business of developing code, bridges, crops, or whatever. You are now (also) in the business of developing people, a job for which you may have little interest and even less training.
That's where the GUIDE comes into play. Over the next year I am going to shift my writing from being just idle thoughts about sports and writing to being more focused on sharing the lessons I learned in classrooms, books, and on the pitch about how to intentionally grow a group of disparate individuals.
Working my way from an assistant coach for a single team to being a coaching director for a club, I got a lot of hands on practice trying to help groups grow, and I made lots (LOTS) of mistakes. Those mistakes provided learning opportunities that my more formal education has allowed me to frame in words, words that I hope to unpack here.
While the original name of this project might have been born out of whimsical homage, over the years of research it has grown into something else, something that might resemble a metaphor if one doesn’t look too close.
Ok, it's a metaphor.
One of the tenets that was central to the development of the GUIDE was the idea of a diversity dividend, or the necessity of diverse skills and prior information within a group collaborative effort. The hitchhiking scenario offers a useful illustration. If there ever was a heyday for hitchhiking I am fairly confident it was somewhere in the halcyon days of Kerouacian yore, but hitchhiking depends on diverse collaboration. No hiker would ask a fellow walker for a lift, and a driver wouldn't offer to drive a fellow motorist.
You need the difference in order to collaborate.
Hitchhiking also offers a great example of a subjective kind of collaboration, a collaborative effort where neither party need share either a common origin, or destination, but rather need only share a common direction for a little while. The idea that we are all on different journeys that may overlap for given periods of time is another part of the foundation of the GUIDE.
This blog is very much just a collection of some of the nuggets of insight that I have gathered on my journey that might prove helpful for you on yours, even if we happen to be going to completely different places from completely different places. My hope is that it becomes a place where you all can share your own nuggets, and that together we can help all of us get a little bit better of a grasp on this whole being-human thing.
Thoughts on culture, community, and development.