Will this be on the test?

Two hundred years ago, factories were in short supply of factory workers.

The answer was to put kids in public school to train them to become compliant cogs in a machine. We did this by telling kids to sit at their assigned seats with their #2 pencil, ask for permission to use the bathroom, to line up when the bell rings…to follow instructions.

The standardized test was invented to help identify the students who exceled in school. (Of course, there is a difference between leadership/intelligence and schooling.) It was meant as a temporary solution. And when Horace Mann, the architect behind standardized testing, spoke against the continuation of testing, he was fired.

It’s clear, school is designed to help train a work force to become more productive—to do what you did yesterday but faster and cheaper.

We have been conditioned to memorize the “right” answer given to us rather than explore the edges, to seek the unknown in search of new possibilities.

The culture has been built around The Henry Ford Production Model. Which would be great, except now there is so much stuff. Production is almost instance, free and to spec. It’s (almost) perfect. It’s a race to the bottom, and soon it is going to end. Factory jobs are no longer short supply.

So why do we insist on feeding the machine?

Because that is what we have been told to do.

This is the most stressful workforce in human history. And there’s stress because we still produce students looking for the correct answers. Once school is over there is no road map, no step-by-step set of instructions to follow. Yet, we end up waiting (often quite a long time) to be told what to do next.

We operate as a bird in search of cage despite the open space. We continue to ask Will this be on the test?

The opportunity now, more than ever, is to lead. To learn how to make better decisions. The only way to learn how to make better decisions is by making them. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. We learn to act. Act first. Act often. Over time, we discover this ability to make decisions was with us all along: Agency. Agency, the ability to choose.

Sure, it’s scary and tempting to give it away. We want everything to mapped out before we act. All the steps and pitfalls to be identified before we ship. We want the water to be calm, conditions to be perfect before we begin.

Except, that isn’t how life works.

So, the choice is yours. You can choose to take back your agency or surrender it.