Episode 088 – Dr. Aaron Smith PhD
Welcome to another episode of The HERO Show. I am your host Richard Matthews, (@AKATheAlchemist) and you are listening to episode #88 with Dr. Aaron Smith PhD – How to Develop the Next Level Workers Through Dialogues.
Aaron is an international speaker, author and award-winning educator who is an expert in workplace readiness. He leads communities, school districts and businesses in transforming their organizations to initiate, grow, sustain the creation of a pipeline workforce-ready graduates. The main focus of his business is to move forward the education system to produce highly qualified and competent workers.
Here’s just a taste of what we talked about today:
- Aaron highlights some of the problems under the workforce sector.
- The huge role of counselors in addressing the lack of workplace readiness for graduates.
- Why it’s time to stop using the old model of teaching in classrooms.
- Importance of teaching real world experiences and critical thinking in the classroom as opposed to rote learning.
- How schools are killing creativity.
- Aaron’s suggestion on how to change the incentive structure in schools.
- Richard’s rules on automation, find out what they are.
Aaron’s authored books:
The HERO Challenge
Today on the show, Aaron challenged Lucia to be a guest on The HERO Show. Aaron thinks that Lucida is a fantastic interview because she is brilliant at fleshing out great ideas that people don’t always realize have opportunities in them. She’s a game changer to some of her clients lives the way she brings out value and creates pride. She’s someone you’d want on your side.
How To Stay Connected With Aaron
Want to stay connected with Aaron? Please check out their social profiles below.
With that… let’s get to listening to the episode…
Aaron Smith 0:01
The only way you can go wrong is if you just fail not to react. You know, I tell everybody to teach the way you want to be taught. Because when you look at it from that approach, you want somebody that is dynamic, that is engaging, that is just going to blow you away when you sit down and grow that lab. And that’s the secret to teaching. That is the secret to the beginning of an autonomous learner, who is going to be self-sustaining, from crayons to career.
Richard Matthews 0:37
Welcome back to The Heroes Show. My name is Richard Matthews. And today I’m live on the line with Aaron Smith, PhD. Aaron, are you there?
Aaron Smith 1:44
Yes, sir. I am. How are you today?
Richard Matthews 1:48
Awesome. So glad to have you on the show amidst our wonderful COVID crisis. I know lots of things are happening in our world. But we still want to come on to our show here and provide a voice of positivity and tell some cool stories. So glad to have you here. While we’re in our internal lockdown stuff. So you’re coming to us from Virginia, is that right?
Aaron Smith 2:08
Richard Matthews 2:11
Awesome. And for those of you who have been following my story around through the podcast, we’re currently in Florida under our shelter and place orders, here. So, what I want to do before we get too far into this is introduce you to Aaron and let us know what it is that he does, and we’ll dive into his story. So, Aaron is an international speaker innovating education for Workforce Development, which is really interesting. And, you’ve got a passion for workplace readiness and stem where you are an expert consultant that leaves communities, school districts and businesses in transforming their organizations to initiate growth, sustain the creation of a pipeline of workforce ready graduates with your five point stems initiative. So with all of that, why don’t you tell me a little bit about what it is that you do and how you help communities and help grow essentially our education sector with your business.
Aaron Smith 3:02
So, what I do is I allow K-12 corporations, workforce development centers to understand that everybody’s facing the same problem. We all want highly qualified and competent workers. But in order to do that, we really have to unify our resources, our thoughts, and our projections on what the next level employees should look like. And the way that you do that is you really start off with dialogues. You find out what their needs are, what their niches and you develop that within the community, common language, from there you develop goals. And that’s where you start to establish criteria from the criteria. What are things that you want to develop the next 5 years, 10 years? And at the same time, how can you incubate some of these things in the schools so that you’re not having a swarm of qualified employees and then, 10 years later, you’re lacking and you’re struggling to find it. And you see this right now all across the world and I’ll pick the aviation world. For example, Boeing did a report not too long ago, where they’re looking for over 2 million people. We’re talking about pilots mechanics, flight crew. And it’s because there’s not been a focus on getting qualified pilots and mechanics and aircraft crews ready for this. So, in order to avoid a crisis like this, you have to develop a continuum that enables you to continue addressing these things at every facet of the road. So corporations have a responsibility in making sure that their employees are up to date. They have the best skills available, they have good engagement skills, and also have the ability to share knowledge and become inter-transferable. And by that, I mean they should be able to take whatever work that is, and apply it into the next product, or the next cycle that enables the profits to increase for that company.
Richard Matthews 5:11
Absolutely. It’s an interesting, like problem that we’ve run into over the last, 20 years or so ’cause I remember when I was in high school, like during my high school career, like halfway through my high school career, they cut out everything that wasn’t college prep. So we lost the auto shop, we lost the woodshop we lost like every home ec, all of it was gone. By the time I was in my 11th grade year, I didn’t have it anymore. And it was you’re going to college and you’re going to college for some sort of, soft skills, programming or, whatever the things are, and a lot of the hard skills just went by the wayside. And it’s interesting because I remember reading a couple years ago, Apple tried to bring a manufacturing plant back here and they put out an application for engineers, and they only got 4000 I think applicants for it, and they needed like 40,000. And there’s just like the labor pool isn’t there in the states the way that it used to be. And so, if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re working towards correcting that.
Aaron Smith 6:23
Correct. In order to do this, you have to understand it’s a huge marketing plan, as well as investing within the infrastructures itself. Years ago, the focus was on four year schools. You know, back in the day, people were talking about the importance of four year schools. And there was some validity to that. But now the times have changed where the two-year schools, trade schools, apprenticeships and certifications have the same power as for your institutions, and I’m bringing that up because there’s what’s called a seven-to-one rule for a doctor, for example, they usually have seven support staff, usually talking about a couple nurses, an IT person, talking about some administrative folks along the way. And that creates in order for the doctor to completely perform their job 100%. We’re lacking in the technical field, those two year degrees, those certifications that bridge the four year degrees.
Richard Matthews 7:32
It’s a lot of sense. And it’s interesting too, because like the there seems to have been just culturally a shift away from those kinds of jobs and positions without realizing that there’s good income to be made. And there’s a lot of need for those. And job security and stuff. It was, I don’t know what the thing happened, but like ignored,
Aaron Smith 7:56
Right? It is, and I want to say – nobody’s fault on their own. But I think part of it is people focus on one good thing instead of focusing on the overall picture. Counselors, when you think about it, the counselors have general pedagogy. They understand how to deal with a crisis. They understand the basics of getting a job. But really, you want a counselor who understands industries. You want a counselor who understands trade schools, you want to involve the schools, to have more career technical education, to bring their shop classes back to inform parents that every child should have a choice. And one of the choices should be for your schools. But other choices should include the military, apprenticeships, certifications that enable them to find their niche and more importantly, develop the skills that are their strengths.
Richard Matthews 8:53
Absolutely. And I know it’s an interesting place to be as someone who,- I don’t employ a lot of people. I employ a couple but still you want to have a breadth of resources to find people. What it is that you’re looking to hire for. And it’s interesting because my brother, for instance, he is a machinist, so he works with the CNC machines to cut really complicated things with lasers and spinning tools and whatnot. He’s one of the youngest people in the industry. And all of the places that he’s worked for is their biggest problem is they don’t have anyone to replace the people who are aging out of their careers, who are retiring. It’s like the average age in my brother’s industry is 65 right now. And he’s 30 right and he’s like most of his peers in his workplaces are all in their 60s. And he’s like, there’s nobody coming in. Which means, – well it’s a good thing for him his demand is going through the roof, but for companies who need to hire and fill those positions? There’s good money to be made. And it’s definitely an important thing. So, my curiosity then is how did you get into this? So we talked on the show all the time about your origin story, right? Every hero has their origin story where you started to realize that maybe you were different, that maybe you have a value you could offer this world. How did you get into providing this type of a service for communities and for corporations to help build the workforce?
Aaron Smith 10:28
So way back around 1997, I started my first job as a math teacher. And you know, back then, the pedagogy was to learn the curriculum, learn the theory, and of course deliver it through multiple aspects of it. When we fast forward into the last 10 years, when I got my job as the program administrator called ADHD Academy. And for those not familiar with it, we help kids understand still through aviation maintenance, piloting, safety and security, and also engineering. And these are taught by professionals. We’re talking about people that are FAA endorsed, true aerospace engineer, a retired judge. And it’s where it really dawned on to me that teachers need to have that experience of workforce and industry practice while they teach. Because otherwise you’re disengaging the kids because they’re always asking why are we learning this, but you also are beginning to plant true critical thinking and brainstorming and through that, I then said, there’s got to be a better way. There just is got to be a better way. Schools are doing everything they can do. Businesses are doing everything they can do and within my job, part of it is to become a point of business partner liaison where I see what companies can help our school. How can our schools help companies, whether it’s employees or volunteer stuff, and that’s when it hit me that there should be a bridge or, if you will, a roadmap to change those deployments to dollars. And just through good old fashioned research, good old fashioned trial and error. And my experiences at aviation academies where I said, this is how we need to do it. This is where we need to go. Unfortunately, part of the problem is not everybody wants to be a fair player. People are afraid to give up things, because you’re going to talk about money. You’re going to talk about resources. But in the end, if everybody does give a little bit, there’s so much more to gain.
Richard Matthews 12:54
Absolutely. And I’m interested to hear a little bit more about the idea of teachers. Understanding workforce, right? Because we homeschool our kids. We got four of them. My oldest one is 10. So, he is in the process of still learning to read and write. That’s like the primary thing that they’re learning. And we get that question all the time. Like, “Why do I have to learn this?” “Why do I have to do this?” Like, he just absolutely hates it, like passionately? And which is fine. I mean, you know, but at the same time, we have to answer that question for him. Why do you have to learn this skill? So like, one of the things I’ve been doing is I bring him in here and I show him the work that I do and like, literally, every aspect of our work, doesn’t matter. Really matter what industry you’re in, it comes back to being able to read, write and communicate. And then like, it’s like a baseline skill. So like, that one’s pretty easy. But when you start getting into some of the more advanced sciences and start getting into the more complex math that questions harder to answer, like, how does this apply to your life going out and I remember being a kid myself, looking at a lot of those lives. The thing that we were forced to learn under duress in high school, I don’t want to do this. How are you helping teachers answer that question.
Aaron Smith 14:09
I think number one is making them aware that when you teach real world experiences, critical thinking involves, and those are going to be the success in the pass rates to your standardized testing. We think that teaching should be teaching the test. In other words, they’re 60 questions. 10 questions are on this subject. And I disagree with that. I think we have to teach the skill and pack it with a varied approach that shows them multiple fields, stem, non-stem, arts, not arts. So that they have the capability of synthesizing the material through the way that they learn. For example, if your son asked, Why do we have to write this down? All right, he’s what third grade, fourth grade?
Richard Matthews 15:03
Aaron Smith 15:04
Okay. So categorizing is a math slash science skill, right? So, by that we could have him go into your food pantry and have him categorize all the vegetables, all the noodles, and help them understand that this is a process much like a process in a production line. You’re taking inventory, you’re validating it, but at the same time you’re counting, you’re multiplying, you’re doing the basic fundamentals that every third and fourth grade band teacher would want to happen. You’re categorizing things in science, just like you would in a business area. And the more people can kind of switch that mindset from just pure teaching and pure pedagogy into real life scenarios, it actually becomes fun. Kids want to learn when they have the right teacher, when they have the right experiences. And more important, they’re hungry for it. They desire to see something every day.
Richard Matthews 16:19
Absolutely. So, if I’m understanding you correctly, it sounds like what we have in our education industry now is this whole, like give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish. If you’re teaching to test, to pass the test, you’re basically just giving them the fish instead of actually teaching them how to use their mind and how to actually like – it’s the real world experience that’s going to help them be able to pass the test regardless. And then they have skills that are beyond answering the questions on the test.
Aaron Smith 16:52
It is, and I think Sir Ken Robinson said it best. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the YouTube video, but he said, “Education is killing creativity.” And if you ever watch this 20 minute
Richard Matthews 17:05
Amen to that.
Aaron Smith 17:06
There is power in his, his mission, his passion. And, when we grew up, we got a chance to play, we got to go experiment with colors and do things like that. But kids lose that as they grow up through the ages. You do use your five senses and kindergarten, first and second, and about third, you start losing the census. And it’s because the classrooms get bigger, the resources get tighter. And the accountability grows even higher, to the point where teachers are afraid to step out of the comfort zone to try something new. And I remind everybody, the only way you can go wrong is if you just fail not to react. I tell everybody, teach the way you would want to be taught. Because when you look at it from that approach, you want somebody that is dynamic, that is engaging, that is just going to blow you away when you sit down and grow that lab, right there. And that’s the secret to teaching. That is the secret to the beginning of an autonomous learner, who is going to be self-sustaining, from crayons to career.
Richard Matthews 18:27
I like that from crayons to career. And it’s interesting too, because you mentioned once you get to third and fourth grade, the accountability changes, and a lot of it goes towards like, the accountability is you have to have your kids pass this test. So like the incentive, like we’ve incentivized teaching to test instead of incentivizing teaching to what did you say earlier – teaching to like critical thinking and then allowing the critical thinking to let them pass the tests?
Aaron Smith 18:56
Richard Matthews 18:58
Do you have suggestions on how to change that incentive structure in the school?
Aaron Smith 19:03
So number one, it takes a whole village to raise a child. And I apologize for the coo coo egg expression. But there is power behind this. I think it’s time to change the way we view education. And the only way we’re going to do that is you bring your parents together, you bring the community together, you bring the businesses together, and you bring all the schools together to develop a common framework, a common understanding of what should be done not only with today’s child in school, but the children that have just graduated, and also the current workforce. When you’re doing that, teachers really need to pay close attention to the subject matter experts, the ones that are out there in the industry, in the labs, in the engineering fields and take notes as to how they can carry those skills back into the classroom. But at the same time, teachers have the opportunity to share with HR better and more effective professional development training. I don’t know if you’ve gone through this or not, but I think a lot of people will relate to how many times employees have just sat there for a two hour PowerPoint webinar. And just totally felt like it was a waste of time. When they could have gotten an email, or there was no engagement, there was no feedback. This is where mutual relationships can outweigh any interfering factors. And I think from there, it’s just a continual conversation. You just can’t stop. It’s just like working out after New Year’s. You’re going to be great January 2, you’ll be okay January 3, but about the first week You know, you’re kind of cut off and you’re done with it. You got to be continuous and committed to it. That’s what’s going to be self sustaining, creating a culture, but also driving the economic force for the next millennial.
Richard Matthews 21:16
Absolutely. So I want to move on a little bit in the interview and ask you about your superpowers, right. So this is what you do or build our offer in this world that helps solve problems for people. The things that you use to slay the world’s villains, so to speak. And the way that I’ve been framing this for my guests lately has been if you look at your set of skills that you have, right, all the things you’re good at are the things that you use on an everyday basis. If you really look at them, you probably find that one of your skills energizes the rest, right? It’s the one that – it’s where the zone of genius is, so to speak. Do you know what that is for you? What’s your superpower?
Aaron Smith 21:51
So my superpower is subconsciously thinking through a problem until I’ve answered it. And I say that because I’ll look at a problem. And I’ll just kind of keep developing and flushing and flushing it. And then eventually I’ll get that eureka moment. And sometimes I could just be grilling, and it would hit me and I have a notebook with me everywhere I go. So when I get an idea, I write it down. I think also my ability to connect with people, and find out who they are, what their strengths are, and hopefully give them an opportunity for them to develop themselves. So in your case, you love technology, I think you are very passionate and want the better of humanity. And that said, you start off with your children, giving the best that they have, but at the same time balancing them with realistic moments so that they remain humble throughout their lives, and the way that you’re going to amplify this is you’re going to show people in your show that it can be done no matter where they are in the world.
Richard Matthews 23:09
Absolutely, yeah. That’s one of the goals on the show is, culturally speaking, growing up and even still today, I’ve always seen entrepreneurs portrayed as villains. And like, it still happens. I watched one of my kids shows the other day and the primary gist of the show was, “Hey, there was an entrepreneur who was destroying the ocean and wanting to kill all the fluffy bunnies or whatever. And they have to gather together and fight against the evil entrepreneur. And I’ve always hated that storyline. It’s so common culturally, because literally everything we touch and interact with every day was at some point tests are handled by an entrepreneur. And so we use this show as a way to sort of like show people that “Hey, entrepreneurship is just as viable an option as any of the other workforce options that are out there.” And it’s not a it’s not a negative thing. And, so that’s one of the things we do with the show.
Aaron Smith 24:10
So entrepreneurship, that is a great thing to talk about. Because when you do talk about the fourth industrial revolution, some people would argue that that is an essential skill as well, because that helps continue to spark that new economy. You never know when you’re going to have the next Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, right there in their garage building something that can become a trillion dollar driving force for the world.
Richard Matthews 24:37
But providing millions of jobs and –
Aaron Smith 24:40
Exactly, exactly. And entrepreneurs sometimes get the bad news, because they’re hearing about cutting jobs, but they forget maybe they’re the ones who started in gave them jobs to start off with 20 years ago.
Richard Matthews 24:58
And it’s really interesting because I spent a lot of time working with smaller entrepreneurs. People who are not running thousand plus per person organizations are generally in the zero to 2550 people in their organizations. And those entrepreneurs are still generally struggling with that whole thought that – of the cultural upbringing, that profit is evil, and that you’re not adding value to society and not realizing that you’re providing jobs and providing industry and actually creating in spaces. So it’s interesting, and it’s something that I noticed in school. I started my first business when I was 13. And the school system shut me down, because I didn’t have the appropriate business license and stuff like that. It’s not something that was encouraged, entrepreneurship was always – It’s like, “Hey, you shouldn’t do that. You should go and prepare for college.” Right? And it’s interesting that the message is still passed around and I like the idea of getting them on the same – college is a viable option. Entrepreneurship is a viable option. The hard skills, those are viable options like encouraging all of those and letting the children see where they fall into place because not everyone’s gonna be an entrepreneur. Not everyone’s gonna be a college degree person.
Aaron Smith 26:15
No, they’re not. And I think we have to give kids choices. We want choices, why can’t we offer our children the same thing? That’s life. That’s the beauty of being a human is we’re not locked in to be assimilated into one systematic person or ideology. We have to be diverse because we live in a diverse world that’s full of different cultures that are amazing. And I think that’s the beauty of where the 21st century is going, even through crises like COVID-19 you’re going to see a lot of celebrations take place. And there’s gonna be a lot of pride and I think a lot of unification because we’ve solved a global crisis.
Richard Matthews 27:08
Slowly, and I just wanted to speak real quick. You mentioned, one of the things that you do is you ruminate on a problem until you come up with a solution. And, keep a notebook with you, and whenever the solution pops into your head, and I want to just talk a little bit more about that, because it’s an interesting skill set. And I know a lot of people, we have, I call it my backburner, right? You take something, you’re like, “I don’t have a solution for that.” It’s just sort of like sticking it in your mind elsewhere and letting yourself think about it. How do you develop a skill like that? Because that’s a pretty important problem solving skill. And just learning how to, you know, I don’t have the answers now. But letting your mind work on it. And having it be open to a solution is what allows your mind to work on something like that. So do you have any further thoughts on that?
Aaron Smith 27:55
I do. One thing I’ve learned is, you have to be in the right mindset. Set to learn. Just like if you ask a writer, they don’t write every day they write when they’re ready. And some authors could write for 18 hours straight, and not pick it up again until two weeks later, then you have authors who just can crank it out an hour a day, just like it’s working. For me. I’m a little of both, I try to think a few minutes every morning, just to kind of jog my brain. Sometimes I’ll do a little research. And I’ll even have basically a flowchart or an idea board. And then I’ll just slip it right in my back pocket. And through the day, whether I’m going through work at home, and like you said, it just gets on the backburner. And when you feel like it’s starting to become ready, I’ll just jot it down. And then eventually, even sometimes in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up and I’ll be like, “Boom! I got it.” That’s it right there. And then I’ll just start to kind of put the pieces together, then the following morning, I’ll just go to town and just really finish it out.
Richard Matthews 29:11
Absolutely. I always feel like I have my best ideas in the middle of the night when I’m asleep. And I can’t remember them in the morning, or when I’m in the shower, and I can’t write anything down because then you get all wet and ruined.
Aaron Smith 29:22
So what you do then is you just write down or try to remember key ideas within that dream, or, that moment, and then from there, it’ll hit the backburner again, and then you’ll connect one or two things from a key concept that you weren’t able to capture.
Richard Matthews 29:40
Absolutely. And it’s interesting too, because sometimes you have a really great idea and you write it down, then you bring it out into the real world. And that’s when it gets tested. And you find out, “Okay, that was a crappy idea, or that one was a really good idea. And it’s an interesting sort of life cycle you have to go through and you sort of train your brain to understand what the fundamentals of a great idea are. Unlike what’s actually going to work and the more you do it, the better you come, you know better you get at creating good ideas and good solutions to problems.
Aaron Smith 30:12
But that’s engineering, that’s engineering and it’s fine. I mean, you think about people like Walt Disney, he got rejected 30 times before he actually got his first business loan. So you mean to tell me that the first time he got rejected to the third time he got accepted, he didn’t change his model a little bit based upon the feedback? You know, you absolutely. Even today’s products, they’re still being refined. Because if they’re not, they’re going to become obsolete. And if you don’t believe me, look at the stores that are vacant, look at the malls that are vacant as a result of no fresh innovation, no fresh product lines as a result of it. You know, no, we don’t change to match the times and the technology and the skills that our kids slash employees have, we will never optimize the true ability that we can do as a society.
Richard Matthews 31:14
We have a service that we offer in the marketplace that every week, and every time we go through things I always find little places we could optimize or change things and make them better. So it’s like it’s a constant thing that you do is innovate and create better versions of your product or your service. So it’s a really important skill that you have to teach people you have to teach your teacher kids. So my next question for you is actually the flip side of a superpower right? So if your superpower is the ability to think through an idea and find a solution, the fatal flaw is something that you struggle with something that has held you back or kept you from getting better results in your life or in your business. Just like Superman has this kryptonite, right or Batman is not really a superhero, what’s something that you have struggled with? It’s helped You back and more importantly, how have you sort of dealt with it or mitigated it. So someone else who struggles with something similar could learn from you.
Aaron Smith 32:08
Sometimes I will still refuse to give up on an issue. And I say that is if I’m going to force myself to think about a product or a process. And I’ll just sit at the computer for hours, instead of just getting away, refreshing my drink, talking to the kids petting the dog, and coming up with some new ideas. And I don’t know if that’s stubbornness. Or if it’s just because I’m that much doubt in the zone that you can’t see the forest for the trees. So I’m trying to do better into just taking mini breaks like maybe every hour, just a five minute break, just to kind of break the monotony. Stretch, and just kind of relook at everything so that when I do sit back now when I get in the zone, hopefully something will come to me that didn’t appear to me that 10 minutes ago.
Richard Matthews 33:13
So, I actually have a theory that we talked about pretty regularly on the show, I call it giving yourself permission to play. And the problem that we have as a society, at least in the U.S. is we look at play and recreation as a reward for a job well done. Instead of a prerequisite for doing a good job. And so, if you haven’t reached a spot in your work, where you’re thinking, “I now deserve to go recreate.” You’ll sit there and work and work and work and never get anywhere not realizing that it’s actually you’ve got it flipped on its head. In order to actually get good work. You have to go give yourself permission to play, recharge, recreate, go pet the dog, play with your kids, throw the ball a little bit. Take a walk, like that kind of stuff. And I know one of the things that I did when I was working a lot more hours than I do now. I was like, I set a little timer and every hour I get up and go take a 10 minute walk. And because it changes, it just changes the whole brain chemistry.
Aaron Smith 34:15
It does. If you look at schools like Finland, schools of countries like Finland. Finland has a 90% graduation rate. And a lot of people don’t realize that and one of the reasons that they do is not only do they pay teachers higher, but they also give kids more recess time. They don’t put as much focus on standardized testing. And they come with a different approach. And just like when you can get away from it, you’re able to come back much more focused and concentrated. When that time is over. And I know that’s one of the reasons why they are just so resilient. When it comes to education.
Richard Matthews 35:03
Absolutely. And I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Fin education system. And I’m curious to see how we’ll be able to integrate some of those things into our school system going forward. Because, like there’s a – our crisis is putting a huge emphasis on homeschooling and huge emphasis on what you would call it distance learning. And because I have stuff, I think now is a really ripe time to put an emphasis on how we can change and improve our school system?
Aaron Smith 35:31
In distance learning, that’s a whole different conversation in itself. I think part of the issue is teachers know how to use it, but they don’t know how to utilize it. Everybody can put up a lesson plan and submit it. But how are you making sure that you’re getting feedback and engagement appropriately? You cannot give the same lesson plan format to a third grade student in Digital Learning as you can with a high school senior in digital learning, because you’re going to be talking about a whole different spectrum. Third graders aren’t gonna be able to do so much. Seniors, they’re almost on the way. Maybe just need a little guidance here and there. So you’ve got to continue on that. You have to think about how you can broaden it but at the same time, shorten it up so that it fits every individual unique learner and their style.
Richard Matthews 36:31
Absolutely. And you have a completely different control level over your digital classroom if you’re doing distance learning, than you would in person. I know one of the things that just cracked me up entirely was that apparently there’s this whole thing now they’re calling it Zoom Bombing, where kids are typing in random Zoom numbers and then mooning people in their classrooms. And I’m like, it’s hilarious because our kids are, you know, even if they’re at distance learning, they can still be the class clown and things like that, but it’s like it’s a whole new world.
Aaron Smith 37:04
But see, that’s creativity right there. I’m not saying appropriate. But that is very creative.
Richard Matthews 37:12
Not appropriate creativity. But it’s curious.
Aaron Smith 37:14
That’s what teachers need to tap into. That’s what employers need to tap to with their employees is allowing learning to make fun. If you’re going to have to use distance learning, at least make it so that they’re able to get something out of it, and they feel like their time is being valued.
Richard Matthews 37:36
Absolutely. So I want to talk a little bit about your common enemy. Right. And generally speaking, we talked about the common enemy like when you’re working with individuals or corporations or school systems, it’s the thing that you constantly have to fight against. The thing that you’re banging your head against all the time saying, “I wish I had a magic wand and I could just remove this mindset, or this problem that you’re constantly running into?” What is that for your business here? We’re working on reforming the education system.
Aaron Smith 38:02
I think number one, people think that it’s impossible. And it goes back to your mindset. Nothing’s impossible. It’s how bad do you want it? We’re only bound by our imagination. And, then people kind of say, “Well, if you don’t have the money to do it.” And, sometimes you don’t need the money to achieve greater success. It’s what you focus on. And more importantly, it’s who you surround yourself with, to make the actionable results become productive and effective. And that’s what I tell people, if you’re going to give me nothing but negativity, I don’t want to be around you. You’re worthless to me. Give me somebody who wants it, doesn’t mind learning, who may not have the skills and develop a team that wants to really go at it with the charge? That’s where you’re going to see results. You know, It’s not always the best when in the Super Bowl, it’s the most dedicated and the ones that have the best chemistry that win in the Super Bowl.
Richard Matthews 39:12
I know, my brother and I still to this day, we always tease that, in our various industries, people always ask us, can you do something? And our response is always that’s the wrong question. Because the answer to that question is always, “Yes.” The more important question is, do you have the time, money and resources to put towards the answer? And that’s really where I think, you’re the heart of what you’re saying is people don’t have that attitude. They’re just asking themselves saying, “That can’t be done.” Instead of saying, “How can that be done?”
Aaron Smith 39:45
And even if you don’t have the money, you probably still have the time someway somewhere, that you can go in and devise a bridge to make it happen, or come up with something completely, completely better and more innovative. than what’s out there that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Richard Matthews 40:04
Absolutely. So if you’re coming in to me is fighting against that negative mentality. You’re You know, that’s the thing you’re fighting against your driving forces what you fight for, right? So just like Spider Man fights to save New York or Batman fights to save Gotham or Google fights to index and categorize all the world’s information. What is it that you fight for?
Aaron Smith 40:24
What I fight for is for the children. Because I feel like part of my existence is to help kids become better. No matter whether they’re homeschool no matter where they’re in Australia or in the United States. People need to understand that children are our future and I’ve seen some horrific things. And I’ve seen some incredible things happen. And I feel like my vision and my mission is to make a difference and to share with people that we’ve got to stop teaching with an old model, an old model that just is rote learning and straight information where it needs to be digital. It needs to be process oriented, critical thinking, futuristic ideas, and give them something that shows that learners can evolve if given the right tools and opportunities.
Richard Matthews 41:30
Now, and gamified is one of the big things I’ve seen being really, really helpful. I know, I’ve got a toddler, and she has started Khan Academy for preschool, and it’s all online digital stuff. And she is just in love with Khan Academy and it cracks me up because she will get up in the morning. She’s like, I want to play Khan Academy. I want to play Khan Academy and I’m like, it’s like most of the other things that she has on her, the things that she can play with, she likes to watch YouTube videos and other things and all that stuff normal kids want. And we limit time a lot of those things like games and YouTube stuff but like the Khan Academy is basically at school and I was like, you can have that as much as you want. And she will literally spend eight hours a day doing school if we let her because it’s fun, right? Because it’s fun and engaging. And she likes it. And the same thing, our six year old for also doing the Khan Academy stuff they turned. I think it’s her math curriculum, right. And her math curriculum through Khan Academy, is every time she does whatever their skills are going over that day. She’s got a creature that she’s growing, that she gets points for it. And she’s always coming to us showing us like whatever the next evolution or whatever for her little creature. And like she doesn’t even care that she’s learning things. Right? Like she cares that she’s got this little creature that she’s growing. And she’ll come and she’ll tell us be like, hey, I want to do more of the Khan Academy. I need to get my little creature to grow more. And it’s interesting because I’ve just found ways to get kids to be engaged in what is traditionally rote learning, like reading and math.
Aaron Smith 43:11
And, it’s already happening. Virtual Reality. You know, you think about it, that is a form of gamify. And the beauty of virtual reality is these are scenarios that can be used in high school, as well as in college or in the workforce that will not only reduce the cost, increase the time and decrease the errors, because the instructor has the ability to provide specific and laser focus feedback. You did this right, because you made these series of steps, right. You did this wrong, because you should have done step c before step D. And getting them the ability to do that, in the form of a game kind of triggers our childhood nostalgia. How we used to love Play Games, hide and seek tag dodgeball catch. You know, and I think part of it is also, it shows us that when you win at the game you feel good about there’s like that intrinsic value. So gamifying in school,
Richard Matthews 44:19
There’s that dopamine rush.
Aaron Smith 44:20
It is. And it becomes an intrinsic value where it’s more important than the grade that you necessarily get.
Richard Matthews 44:31
Absolutely. And I know the interesting thing about the way that education is going that direction, is, we have a lot of technology now just to support it that didn’t exist when I was in high school when you were in high school, like I was watching the other day. In sports, a lot of this stuff is picking up. There’s some stuff for baseball now or you can like, record the kid swinging the bat. And then it’ll like and analyze the whole trajectory of the mat, everything you can turn around and show it to them be like, Hey, here’s where all, your arm was in the wrong position here. And if you move it here would change the trajectory, like stuff like that for baseball and basketball and gymnastics and other things like and you’re saying in the aviation space, I think we’re gonna see a lot more innovation across a lot of those things that are really helping people pick up skills, right, and, and see things in new ways. So and it’s interesting. It’s like our education system just has to keep up with it.
Aaron Smith 45:32
There’s no argument with that. You know, and see as technology gets better, things will of course get cheaper. I think efficiencies will improve more. And what I see happening is that it’s going to take away the operational aspects, so that hopefully, the humanity part the employees can focus on creativity and development and refinement of products and processes. You know, we shouldn’t be afraid of automation. I think we should embrace it and understand that it’s really here to help us, you know, and to guide us.
Richard Matthews 46:10
It unlocks human creativity.
Aaron Smith 46:12
It does. Because when you are focused on an operational task, there’s no way you can prepare for the vision. You can’t think about a vision, when you’re solely focused on trying to get through that one big obstacle that’s holding you down.
Richard Matthews 46:31
I have a whole training course that I just finished putting the finishing touches on where I teach. I teach businesses how to build systems and processes. And the last section of that course is about automation. And where automation is useful and what it’s used for. And like the primary thing that I tell all of my clients, is that automation is like the rule of thumb. The first one is that you don’t use automation to replace creativity. Right, if because automation can’t do creativity. You use it to support creativity. That’s the first rule. And the second rule is automation is designed to help your team members do only that which only they can do. Right. So what I mean by that is, you know, if you have like, we have a whole system of things that we do for one of our services, and it’s like, hey, at the end of at the end of one, one task list of things that need to get done by a human being, right, so for instance, we do a bunch of graphic design work for a client on this thing and then it moves on to the needs to get a bunch of writing work done. And one of the steps in the process is like, Okay, this project means to have all of its stuff checked off and you know, and moved over to the next person’s like list of things to do. And we use automation to support that transition. Right so it you know, when you move the project over to the next person now it takes off all of their all of the checklists and other things that were for this person and adds on the next person who adds all their stuff to it, right. And it was something that in the past we had a human being doing. But it’s all just operational, like click this, then click the other thing. And when we’ve replaced that with automation, now our team members are just focused on the things that they’re good at doing, right? Like, I’m good here, and I’m good here. So they’re spending their time doing their zone of genius, right working on their zone of genius instead of on operational procedures. And that’s what automation really can help unlock in a business is it can unlock the potential of your team members.
Aaron Smith 48:29
That is so true.
Richard Matthews 48:31
My next question for you is about your own personal heroes, right? So just like Frodo had Gandalf or Luke had Obi-Wan or Robert Kiyosaki had his Rich Dad. Who were some of your heroes? Were they real life mentors, speakers or authors peers through a couple years ahead of you and how important were they to what you’ve accomplished so far with what you do?
Aaron Smith 48:49
Wow. I’d say first of all, my dad was a hero to me because he inspired me and I think he he saw potential in me and he He just showed me really what grit was before it became a well known term in the education and science field, you know, and that I still use to this day because, you know, there’s times when you feel like shutting down and given up, but you know that you’ve got to keep plugging away because something is just as brilliant on the other side of that wall. There’s a lot of pieces that I use from heroes. One is my partner, Lucia Harper, and Sheena are working on some projects for Workforce Development in K 12 schools, and she just challenges me every day. And it’s one of those things that, you know, you never want to be the smartest person in the room. But you also have somebody like her who can really bring things out of you that you never realized you have. And I was Same a third one is certainly one of the guys who just saw so much in me when I was at aviation Academy. His name is Bud Raimi, his son went to school at aviation, we would often have a lot of great sidebar conversations, and he’s the one who helped me really develop becoming an author. 10 years ago, I would have laughed at that. But now I realize it’s something that I can share a message that’s just as powerful as being in front of thousands of people is putting it in a book where they can pick it up when they’re ready to receive it and acknowledge it, and hopefully pass it along to somebody along their journey. So I would say those three are probably the ones that have really given me a great cornerstone in who I am now.
Richard Matthews 50:53
It’s really interesting too, it’s like, I, every time I ask that question, it always surprises me the answers that people give one of the reasons we asked the question on the show is because to me, it strikes me as very cool that everyone’s always got an answer to that question. It’s always the most unsuspecting people. And what I hope our listeners get from that message is you don’t you probably don’t even realize that you’re a hero to someone else. And if they were asked that question, your name would come up, right. And I’ve always liked that idea that, hey, if you conduct yourself in a way that you’re always looking to help bring the best out in people that you probably have people in your life they don’t even realize that you’re a hero for.
Aaron Smith 51:30
But that’s true. You think about how many teachers are heroes to kids who have horrific backstories. And that teacher is just there smiling at them and encouraging them every day. And for that child, that may be the only encouragement they hear. You know, or or to the grandmothers that are out there. Because the families deployed. The mom has nowhere to be around and she’s just trying to keep the family intact and keep the best I used to gather, you know, there’s heroes everywhere. The first responders, the people that are in the hospitals, the doctors, the police officers, you know, we’re surrounded by heroes everywhere. Unfortunately, the media limits us to recognize these people. And I think we just like what you’re doing right here and right now have to make it a point to recognize that they are doing a great job. And without them, we couldn’t be this close to finding a cure, or at least this close to, hopefully solving how to contain this, this global epidemic.
Richard Matthews 52:40
Absolutely. And I know like in my own life, I have some teachers that were, you know, heroes to me, and I actually, I made it a point to go back to some of those teachers and let them know that, you know, they had an important impact on my life. One of them was an English teacher in high school and actually showed up at his class one day and I was like, Hey, I don’t know if you aware of this, but I can like directly trace back some of the skills that I use to run a, you know, a six figure business to things I learned in your classroom. And it was really cool to be able to go back and just thank someone, someone like that. Because, you know, he sees over the course of his 30 year career, thousands of students, right and, and he has that same message to every kid and you don’t always you don’t always realize how much of an impact it can make. So it’s very cool when you get an opportunity to recognize the heroes in your life. So got one last question for you. And this is basically about your guiding principles, right? So what are the top one or two principles or actions that you put into practice every day that you think contributes to the success and the influence that you enjoy and the work that you do? Maybe something that you wish you’d known when you’ve gotten started?
Aaron Smith 53:53
I think number one, I’m a believer was Gandhi that says, “Be the change that our world so desperately needs.” And the way that you do that is, you know, you follow your own beat, but you also make a difference in people’s lives. And for some people, it’s just listening. For some people, you just sit down side by side and you let them cry on you, you know, you make a difference when you see that you need to make a difference. To me, that’s, that’s the first part of it. I think the other part that you have to keep in mind is that we have to think about others before ourselves. And you know, your family, man, you know, in a given moment, you would do anything for your family before yourself. And I think unfortunately, there’s times when society says it’s me before we.
Richard Matthews 54:53
Absolutely. I mean, it’s interesting too, because like both of those sort of remind me of one of one of my guiding principles which is leaving better than you found them. And you know, it’s always about looking beyond yourself, right and seeing where the change needs to happen and realizing that like, Hey, you were put here to make a difference and you have skills and you have a story and you have perspective, like you have a unique value to give. You’re right and you have to step out and actually do it. Right. You have to actually take some action and do some things. If you see someone that needs some encouragement, give them the encouragement, right? And, you know, it’s one of the things my wife and I do all the time. It’s like, we will compliment strangers all the time on their outfit, or their kids or anything, right anything that you see we always compliment when people like strange looks and whatnot, but it’s always like, you know, that might be the only encouraging word that person had that day. And, and so you know, you can change someone’s life with a kind word.
Aaron Smith 55:57
Richard Matthews 55:58
I agree completely. So that basically wraps up our interview. I do have one last thing we do at the end of every one of our episodes called the Hero’s Challenge. The Hero’s Challenge is really easy. It’s basically thi, do you have someone in your life or in your network that you think has a cool entrepreneurial story? Who are they? First names are fine, and why do you think they should come and share their story with our audience?
Aaron Smith 56:20
Cool, entrepreneurial story. I would go back to my friend, Lucia Harper, because I think she is so brilliant with some of these ideas that she has that she’s fleshing out. People just don’t realize there’s opportunities in it. And I would just say, if you haven’t taken a look at YepBusiness.com. That’s her website. And you can just kind of see some of the things that she does. That really brings value but more importantly, creates pride. Somebody, and it’s a game changer, because she’s told me some of the stories about how it’s made a difference with some of her clients or some of her friends. And, you know, I’m just like, that’s, that’s somebody that you want on your side.
Richard Matthews 57:19
Awesome. So we’ll reach out later and say we get her contact details for getting her on the show. Last thing we do is just thank you so much for coming on the show. Aaron, where can people find you if they want to pick up a couple of your books? Or maybe they want to hire you to come and speak to either their workplace organization or their school about this whole workplace development or workforce development? Where can they find all that? And then I guess more importantly, who are the right types of people to reach out for either speaking or for picking up your books or the kind of people that would benefit the most from what it is that you provide?
Aaron Smith 57:49
So I would say first of all, visit the website. https://www.aaronsmithphd.com/ and when you go there, you’ll see some of the I’m speaking packages that I’ll also do, but you’ll also see two of my books that I have. One that’s Awakening Your STEM School. And the brand new one I have, it’s called, Blind Check. What would you do if you could reinvent education? And this way, hopefully people will see the importance of connecting education to business to the community. Social media, very easy. And Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Aaron L. Smith, PhD. And for the audience, it really is anybody in everybody. We’re talking K 12, corporations, workforce development centers, anybody who wants to make a difference in helping their employees or their students become better and more efficient at what they do so that they are not only gainfully employed, but highly productive. Those are the types of people we love to have engaging conversations with.
Richard Matthews 59:01
Awesome, thank you very much for coming on the show again. And you heard him. If you are in one of those places if you run a company or you are in charge of the school district or anything like that and you want to improve the way your school is working and the way that the workflow sports development is happening, definitely reach out to Aaron. I’m actually interested in reading your Blank Check. So I might pick that up here before too long. Because it seems really interesting to me. So thank you for coming on the show. Do you have any final sort of parting words of wisdom before hit the stop record button?
Aaron Smith 59:30
No, it’s just really been honored and I enjoyed the conversation with you. You gave me a couple things to think about, which is what I love. But really just keep doing what you’re doing. You know, because you are making a difference.
Richard Matthews 59:47
Absolutely. Thank you for coming on.
Aaron Smith 59:48
We appreciate it. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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