The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative
Issue 4 | April 2021


"I’m Not Languishing, I’m Dormant"

Adam Grant, popular author, psychologist, and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, published a recent piece concept of languishing. A term coined by Corey Keyes, languishing is defined as the place between what psychologists have defined as depression and flourishing. But, author Austin Kleon has a bone to pick with this concept. 

In his recent blog post, Kleon breaks it down in impactful and straightforward terms. When we define the world around us, we are, in a sense, saying what we expect to see in it. So, when we use a word like languish to define those of us caught somewhere between depression and flourishing, how are we creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Grant argues that "one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them." While this is true, Kleon offers the counterpoint that we have to "remember that naming doesn’t just describe the world, it creates the world, too." So, what is perhaps a better word, that does not define us only by the situation we are in, but where we can go? Kleon suggests dormant

Dormancy is a natural state for many plants throughout the Winter. Given the conditions we have been in for the last year, many of us are dormant as well. But the best thing about this suggested word is that dormancy is not a final state; it is a period of time. There is limitless potential for an organism coming out of dormancy.

Perhaps this reframed understanding of the state that we are in as a society can help us see the hope at the end of the tunnel.

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"How People Learn to Become Resilient"

Whether we discuss psychology, business, entrepreneurship, education, or society in general, resilience has become a hot-button issue. But, what do we mean by it, and how can we develop it in others? 

In this comprehensive New York Times article, we see a thorough breakdown of the research and conceptions around resiliency. From the research of Norman Garmezy, we learned that situational factors play a huge role, but there are also dispositional variables to consider in an individual's resiliency.

Following Garmezy's work, Emmy Werner discovered that resiliency could change in an individual's life; it can actually increase and decrease based on situational factors and the frequency of negative stressors.

Researchers are now assessing what causes us to gain (or lose) resilience. While there are always new discoveries to be made, the work of individuals like Martin Seligman tells us that one huge factor to consider is how we interpret negative events and the stories that we tell ourselves about them.

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"The problem with stories about teacher ‘burnout’"

As we discussed with the term languishing, when we focus on a particular profession, teaching, we see a fraught and reductive phrase bandied around: burnout. 

Teacher burnout is a topic which many think pieces, studies, and keynotes have tried to address. 'Teachers need to learn to relax,' they might say, with some relaxation techniques included. But how are we ignoring what's really going on with teachers that "describe themselves as frustrated, exhausted, and disappointed by their work?" 

According to this piece from 2019, almost 50% of public school teachers have considered leaving the profession. Clearly, something is amiss.

"And yet, calling it “burnout,” tells the wrong story about the kinds of pain educators are experiencing because it suggests that the problem lies within individual teachers themselves. To say they’ve burned out is to portray them as weak and exhausted, defeated by the pressure, with little hope for rejuvenation. Not only does this diagnosis lead policymakers to prescribe ineffectual remedies, but it likely contributes to the more significant problem...teacher demoralization"

This article argues, in short, that we must change the narrative about teacher engagement and hear what the teachers are actually saying is the problem. The issue, it seems, is not simply giving teachers more tips for self-care to bolster their resiliency but to engage with their concerns and bring them into the conversation about solving their material and moral concerns.

Think About It



"How College Contributes to Workforce Success"

As we think about how we bolster resiliency, while also acknowledging the difficult situations many of us are facing during the second year of a pandemic, it can be difficult to focus on what skills we need to develop in ourselves and our students. One important factor is to look at what employers are asking for.

Given the highly unstable job market, focusing on what employers are looking for can become quite difficult, since it may change daily. But there has been a trend developing well before the pandemic. Managers and owners want more liberally educated workers.

By this, they mean that they want workers that learned to engage in "'in forms of inquiry that train the intellect through a focus on real-world problems that draw the learner into relationships with others.'"

Engaging students with real-world problems in a collaborative setting prepares them with the 21st-century skills that enable them to respond effectively to new and unprecedented change. Colleges that can provide this level of experience, in short, will be the way of the future.

View the Report



"You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life"

To conclude this month's Top of Mind, we turn to beloved first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In her book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, we find a refreshing and intimate guide to living life to the fullest. We found the following quote to hit home the learning outlined in the pieces above:

“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own...Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.”

When we set a goal that aligns with our values, we can begin to see things optimistically and become energized to wake ourselves from a dormant period, ready for new challenges.

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Top of Mind  


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