A Controversial Intelligence Test

Are you brave enough? (Warning: not for the morally sensitive)

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Earth Sciency Baby Names

We need more geographers and earth scientists. One way to do this is to give them a name to grow into. Here are some baby names for you to choose from. Hopefully in a decade or two we'll have a boom in earth scientists.

  • Ait
  • Arête
  • Arroyo
  • Aurora
  • Ayre
  • Barchan
  • Bay
  • Berg
  • Bornhardt
  • Brazil
  • Chad
  • China
  • Cirrus
  • Claudia (Cloudier) Continue reading
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The Best Teachers…

(With thanks to Craig P)

Image: By Sofia Marie Where the Wild Things Are. *Explored


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Not Good to Not Great: How to Completely Demoralize Your Staff (A Guide For Mischievous Managers)

Hi there

Are you at the helm of an organization and possessing of a dark sense of mischief? Are you tired of trying to be the kind of leader who inspires and leads? Want to see how rough you can make the ride for your underlings? Love to push your crew to near mutiny just because you can?

If you answered yes to these questions, then this guide is for you. Go from good to great using these handy pointers.


11 Ways to Completely Demoralize Your Staff:

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Black and White Makes Octarine: False Dichotomies in Education

Black and White Makes Octarine: False Dichotomies in Education

Note: Some of these might offend some of my readers. If they do, I apologize in advance. My intention is merely to emphasize that these issues are far more complex than so many ‘education specialists’ and ‘thought-leaders’ out there make them seem:

False Dichotomies in Education:

  • The Edtech Evangelists: You’re either using technology in your class or you’re a dinosaur.
  • The PD Pushers: If you’re not tirelessly updating your skills, you’re irrelevant.
  • The Cuddlies: If you don’t care for the heart, you miss the mind.
  • The Neuro-determinists: I have quite a few clever kids in my class – and then there are the ‘strugglers’. (Or vice versa.)
  • The Pedagogical Preachers: Teaching is either teacher-led or student-centered.
  • The Conference Sound-Biters: We can do what’s good for us or what’s good for them.
  • The ’21st Century’ Skills Club: Either we teach content or skills.
  • The Neophiles: New is good. Old is bad.
  • Kohn’s Misreaders: The solution to too much homework is no homework.
  • The Gritters: Kids either learn grit or they wallow in failure.
  • The Righteously Rigorous: If all we do is play and be creative, kids will never learn discipline and rigor.
  • The Exam Expungers: We have to personalize assessments or else standardized tests will stunt learning.
  • The Motivational Mavens: Education is either 100% engaging or it is drudgery.
  • The Passion Fruits: If you don’t teach with passion you shouldn’t teach.
  • Employers Everywhere: Teachers teach because they love teaching, not because they care about money.
  • The Brain Busters: Some kids are left-brained, some are right-brained.
  • The Tinkerers: Learning is either hands-on or it is inaccessibly abstract.
  • The Product Partisans: Apple or Samsung / Google or Microsoft.
  • The STEMers: STEM subjects are more valuable in the modern world than the Arts.
  • The ‘Real World’ Rationalizers: We either prepare them for an exam or we prepare them for life.
  • The Global Contextualizers: Either sound learning principles are universal or they are contextual.
  • The Growth Groupies: Children either learn to adopt a growth mindset or they are lost.
  • The Parent Trappers: Parents are either with us or against us.

Any to add?


Image: Almost “Splash of color” unedited on pc (Miguel M.A.S.)



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7 Logical Fallacies Simplified



Circular Argument


A circular argument is one in which the conclusion is essentially the same thing as the step or steps which go beforehand. In other words, the conclusion is already part of the preceding argument. The form of a circular argument usually goes like this: A is true because B is true; B is true because A is true.

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Cat Report Card

My delightful and vivacious wife-like girlfriend sent me this about our cat, The Tigger (Real name: Gandalf Solo Twinkle-Toes). I’m publishing it because I think it’s so cool…




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Ability, Capacity & Capability: On Neuro-Bigots & Cognitive Fatalists

Everything else you grow out of, but you never recover from childhood.

Beryl Bainbridge


Let’s begin by sorting this out:

Ability: Simply means what someone can do. It relates to their present level of skill in a particular field. Eg: Lazarus has the ability to run fast.

Capacity: Is future-oriented. It means that little bit beyond your current ability: the things you might be able to do if you worked hard. Eg: Lazarus has the capacity to win many of his races.

Capability: For the select few. Everyone has abilities and some even strive to realize their full capacity. But only a small percentage are capable of doing spectacular things. Eg: Lazarus has the capability of winning an Olympic medal.


Applied to cognitive functioning, according to these definitions, people can have particular intellectual abilities and, with hard work may reach a certain capacity. But only a rarified few will have the capability of becoming truly gifted thinkers.

My question is this: Who decides? Who looks at what you are able to do right now and then decides what your capacities / capabilities might be?

The answer is simple: all of us do it. Regardless of how qualified we are. Adults in particular do it to children. And the things parents and teachers tell us about our abilities, capacities and capabilities so often stay with us for life. The things these neuro-bigots say about us become self-fulfilling prophecies not because they are true, but because we trust these people and internalize their judgements of us. We thus believe we are only capable of so much, and begin to limit ourselves accordingly.

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John Stewart’s Parting Thoughts on Bullshit: If You Smell Something, Say Something

Thank you, John Stewart, for leaving us with your sublime insights on bullshit:

Bullshit is everywhere. There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit. Not all of it bad. Your general, day-to-day, organic free-range bullshit is often necessary. Or at the very least innocuous. “Oh, what a beautiful baby. I’m sure he’ll grow into that head.” That kind of bullshit in many ways provides important social contract fertilizer and keeps people from making each other cry all day.

But then there’s the more pernicious bullshit, your premeditated institutional bullshit designed to obscure and distract. Designed by whom? The bullshit-talkers.

[It] comes in three basic flavors:

One, making bad things sound like good things. Organic all-natural cupcakes. Because “factory-made sugar oatmeal balls” doesn’t sell. Patriot Act – because “Are You Scared Enough To Let Me Look At All Your Phone Records Act” doesn’t sell. So whenever something is titled “freedom, fairness, family, health, America,” take a good long sniff. Chances are it’s been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.

Number two, the second way, hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit… But I’m not really interested right now in reading Tolstoy’s iTunes agreement, so i’ll just click “agree” even if it grants Apple prima nocta with my spouse…

And finally, it’s the bullshit of infinite possibility. These bullshiters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry. “We can’t do anything because we don’t yet know everything.” We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won’t cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns.

Now, the good news is this: Bullshiters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected. And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time. Like an “I Spy” of bullshit. I say to you tonight, friends, the best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.



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A Thinking Life


Why do things get old and die?

Because their cells stop being reborn after a certain amount of copies.

But why?

Because there are chemicals in them that only allow a set number of copies.

But why?

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The Secret Students’ Guide to Disrupting the System

You'll hear adults talking about it and trying to sound clever: 'disruption' – except they speak about it like it's a good thing. They jabber on about Netflix changing how movies are rented and how Uber changed the taxi business. Yada-yada Air B'nB, something-something Steve Jobs, yakkity-yak Google. Whatevs right?

But hang on. Maybe we can use this thing to our advantage. I'm not talking the 'old school' kind of disruption… that just gets them angry and then they punish you. Really? Who's actually got time for that these days? No, I'm talking about using 'disruption' like adults think they mean it: as something that causes a big change to the way things are done. 'Cos let's face it, there's a lot that needs changing.

So how can you disrupt for fun and profit (and maybe for other more important things)?


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Ideas On a Critical Thinking Roll-Out Plan for Schools


Teaching school kids to think critically is a delightfully dangerous thing: you end up with students who question everything, who think independently and who, as a consequence, can produce richly thought-out, high quality work. We also get to have a hand in creating young people who are less likely to be mislead by charlatans and scams, and who (because they can think clearly and solve problems rationally) are more likely to make a real and positive difference in the world.

A bold claim that: critical thinkers change the world for the better! But just imagine it: A generation of young people who have a habit of analyzing the claims and information that come their way – and who are aware that rational, evidence-based solutions trump all of those pesky things that hold back human progress: comforting lies, baffling mumbo-jumbo, political rhetoric, emotional manipulation and lazy rationalizations. A better world, I tell ya!

Critical thinking is one of the three or four most essential skills kids can learn at school (along with creativity, the ability to communicate effectively and collaborating). But how exactly should we teach it?

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The Best iPad Apps for Teaching and Learning Critical Thinking

There are very few iPads apps which specifically target critical thinking skills. At least there are according to a narrower definition of the term – one which excludes the slew of ‘brain training’ games and ‘apps that make you think’. I also believe that all of those mathematical and problem-solving apps which claim to nurture critical thinking skills have very little to do with it (as good as many of them are).

(Please note: I do not review apps or make money in any way from my recommendations. Please do not send me your app to review.)

These are the iPad apps I recommend for teaching and learning about critical thinking: (Tap / click the titles or pictures to go to the App Store.)

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A Letter of Concern From a Parent Regarding iPads at School

A Letter of Concern From a Parent Regarding iPads at School*

To: The Principal and Staff at Innovation School

Dear Mr Tryit and Staff

As you know, I have been firmly behind all of your initiatives to make the kind of education you offer at Innovation School more relevant, child-friendly and inclusive of twenty-first century aptitudes. I do, however, have some deep concerns about your recent introduction of the 1:1 iPad programme at your school.

My concerns have nothing to do with the expense or the fact that you have chosen iPads rather than allowing students to bring whichever device they prefer. As far as I am concerned, the iPad is the safest option both in terms of content control and network security – and the expense is justified in terms of textbook savings alone. My issues with the roll-out run deeper than this.

I would appreciate your considered response to the following points:

  1. How are you managing staff training? From the research I’ve done into the value of 1:1, BOYD and other device roll-outs, it seems that staff need to be intensively trained – not in how to use these devices and the apps they hold, but in how to use them to transform what happens in the classroom. Hence, how often are teachers getting together to reimagine how their classrooms work and the kind of education they offer? I presume it is at least once a week? Are you using the SAMR model?
  2. How are you training students? I do feel that if kids are going to use these devices to become more creative, more independent thinkers, they do need to receive some basic training in research skills, creative idea generation, critical thinking and in presenting their ideas effectively. I’m pretty sure my daughter (and most other students) can figure out how to use her iPad and almost any app, but I would like to know when and how you are going to be training them on using their iPads as an essential part of acquiring twenty-first century learning skills.
  3. Will you be training parents on how to manage our kids’ devices in terms of security settings and content management? Perhaps you would also consider talking to us about the same skills mentioned in the previous point so that we can support what you’re doing at home?
  4. I think that student training on online safety and digital citizenship is paramount. When are you going to be covering these skills?
  5. How will you be monitoring the success (or otherwise) of these iPads in learning so that you can make adjustments? What exactly will you be measuring and how will you do it?

Please give these matters some thought and get back to me as soon as possible.


Mr I.M. Konsurnd

* Yes, I made this one up. But it can’t be long until schools begin receiving letters like this (if they haven’t already). I think they are really important concerns. Best to be prepared.


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You Know You’re South African When…

  • You're more proud of your national rugby team than you are of the country they represent.
  • You know what nepotism and cronyism mean.
  • In a five minute drive, you can pass mansions and then shacks… and think nothing of it.
  • Your first step upon moving into a new place is to put in burglar bars, an alarm and spotlights.
  • The next step is to hire an armed response security company.
  • You either never use public transport or only use public transport.
  • You are used to people calling you by a made-up, simpler first name rather than your real one.
  • You've tried to subtly elbow-lock your doors at a traffic light.
  • You call traffic lights 'robots'.
  • You have a city wife and a 'home' wife.
  • You're used to being woken in the morning by the honking of hadedas.
  • You've said 'now-now' when you meant some indeterminate time in the future.
  • You've shown up late, shrugged your shoulders and said “African time!” by way of explanation.
  • You vote for a government which ends up lying, stealing and not doing very much to help you. And then you do it again out of historical loyalty.
  • You have a power blackout readiness plan.
  • You love Nelson Mandela like a father. Even though he is no longer with us.
  • You've ever said words like 'howzit', 'eish', 'holla' and 'ja'.
  • You've been mistaken for an Australian when overseas – and you went with it.
  • You're more likely to support a football team in the English Premier League than you are to support a local team.
  • You claim Elon Musk as a fellow South African.
  • You watched District 9 and Chappie just because they were set in Joburg.
  • You know how to ululate.
  • You can sing the 'click song' by Miriam Makeba.
  • You still don't know all the words to the national anthem – but you sing the parts you do know at the top of your voice.
  • You've said “We made CNN again”.
  • You've had a bosberaad in a lapa.
  • You've bought sour milk (on purpose) and called it porridge.
  • You've had a post-braai and kuier babelaas.
  • You either speak only one or two official languages or all eleven of them.
  • You still talk about when you were in Standard 9.
  • You've tipped a car gaurd at the shopping centre.
  • You've watched 'Braaimaster' with a notebook.
  • You shake hands differently with different people.
  • You can side-click with your tongue to express annoyance.
  • You spread chakalaka onto almost anything.
  • You've sworn at those &@$?ing taxis more than five times in a day.
  • You know more than three people who have emigrated to Australia.
  • The 1995 rugby World Cup final is one of the highlights of your life.
  • You believe that littering is a viable job creation strategy.
  • You consider Parliament Live to be some of the best entertainment on TV.
  • You think that yours is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
  • You still have hope that one day South Africa will be great.



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What’s the Use of Philosophy?


Philosophy. It has to be my favorite word – just edging out words like idiosyncrasy, confabulation, curmudgeon, and bamboozle. I like philosophy for the way it sounds. I like it more for what it means: the love of wisdom.

But what is philosophy actually for? Does it have any practical use outside of academia?

In an nutshell, philosophy teaches us the rules of rational thinking. Yes, there are branches which study more ethereal topic such as the nature of being and the truth that underpins reality. But even in these branches of philosophy, rational argumentation and logical thinking are essential parts of the exposition of ideas. At its heart, then, lovers of wisdom are clear, logical and rational thinkers.

(A quick word of caution: Philosophy is often misused to mean some kind of homespun truth or belief. This is not true philosophy. Although it’s sometimes clever and often rings true, it isn’t philosophy.)


So if philosophy is about building rational arguments, what on earth is it for?

The scientific method, for one thing, is based on philosophical rules for acruing and interpreting evidence going back to Aristotle at the very least. (There’s the reason why an advanced qualification in science is called a PhD – a doctor of philosophy.) And all computer programs make use of many of the rules of logic developed through the ages by philosophers and mathematicians.

But what about you and I? What’s the use of philosophy in everyday life? I’d sublimate it down to three things:

  1. Thinking deeply and clearly about things helps us to distinguish fact from woo and hard truths from comforting lies. This means that we are less inclined to embarrass ourselves by falling for conspiracy theories, food myths, homeopathy, anti-vaccination rhetoric and other such nonsense.
  2. Philosophy teaches us better communication skills. Being able to build a cogent argument is essential whether you’re giving a business presentation, conducting training or even interviewing for a job.
  3. We are less likely to be taken advantage of if we understand the laws of logic. This is especially true in the case of logical fallacies and how they are so often used in the media, in advertising and in politics to manipulate and bamboozle us.

And that’s it. Philosophy helps us to think better. And thinking better, in the grand scheme of things is good for us not only in our daily lives, but, as a collective endeavor, lies at the core of human progress and a better world.



Postscript: Here’s an interesting little game you can play to find out for yourself that philosophy lies at the heart of all things. (OK, this isn’t strictly speaking a necessary outcome of the game, but it is fun anyway!)

  1. Do a Wikipedia search on anything you like.
  2. Click on the first hyperlink that isn’t in italics and isn’t in parentheses. (Also ignore external links and links to the current page.)
  3. Repeat the process enough times and you will get to the page on Philosophy. (At least, you will about nine times out of ten.)


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Mutton Dressed as Lamb: Why Writing Exams on iPads is a Mistake

In a recent post on Facebook, a well-known girls’ school in Johannesburg pronounced that, for the first time in the school’s 127 year history, the girls were writing exams on their iPads.

While this certainly speaks to a big upswing in the integration of technology in South Africa, and I would be the first to congratulate St Mary’s on experimenting so bravely, I do wonder if there is not something deeply wrong with writing exams on iPads. Specifically, if we acknowledge the potential that using personal tablets has for changing the very nature of assessments themselves (into more personalized, student-centered and diversified artifacts of learning and understanding), then we must also acknowledge that using iPads to write standardized examinations is a mistake.

Unfortunately, I have no information on what this exam was like. It may well have been a deeply individualized assessment wherein the young ladies were allowed to use a range of apps and web services (as well as being able to Google what they wished). It may well have required a range of skills such as critical thinking, creativity – and perhaps even collaboration. But something in the placement of the question papers alongside the girls in red and something about the girls themselves being arranged into neat rows implies (to me anyway) that these exams are still very traditional standardized assessments. And as such, the use of iPads in these exams appears to me to be simply an activity in typing out answers rather than writing them out in longhand. Whichever is the case, my point is a more general one anyway, and I don’t want to besmirch a school which is obviously trying to offer its students a high quality education. I merely wish to offer a serious word of caution to those who are thinking of doing similar things.

Earlier today, I published a graphic detailing what I think the four phases of iPad integration into education are. Most schools which have ‘integrated’ iPads are, I think, in the second phase (‘Plugged In’).

For me, the real purpose of the integration of iPads into education is that it gives us the excuse to radically revolutionize the way we teach and the way we assess (see ‘Charging’ and ‘Fully Charged’ in the graphic above). If we use iPads merely to augment what we are doing anyway, then these devices are not being used to their full potential. Worse, we get to call ourselves innovative without really making any deep changes, and we are thus cheating our students out of a more relevant and meaningful brand of education. Worse still, we are not shifting into a new mode of educating: what many are calling twenty-first century education, we are just calling the same old thing by a new name.






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Phases of iPad Integration into Education












(Click on image for larger version. Please share with attribution.)





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How to Make the Edtech Integration Guy’s Job Difficult


Dear teachers

It’s a lot of fun showing you how to integrate technology meaningfully into your lessons. When a teacher has an ‘aha moment’, it gives the humble technology coach / ICT integration specialist the same kind of endorphin-fueled kick as when his students do.

But motivating you to integrate technology in a way which stimulates engagement and independent learning can be very tricky indeed.

Specifically, it makes our lives very difficult when you say things like…

  • “This is all very nice, but I simply don’t have the time. I have a syllabus to teach and tests to mark, you know!”
  • “In my day we got along just fine without all this fancy-schmancy tech stuff.”
  • “So now we’ve got to make our lessons all exciting and engaging? That’s not teaching.”
  • “I cannot allow my students to discover this stuff on their own. They won’t get it right.”
  • “Yes, but exams are still paper based!”
  • “How do I mark tests on an iPad?”
  • “My computer says ‘no operating system found’ can you fix it for me quickly please?”
  • “Never mind teaching me about collaborative documents and custom search engines and stuff, I want to know how to create a word-cloud for my exam!”
  • “My students wouldn’t dare plagiarize.”
  • “The files this student submits are always corrupted. Yet when he gives me another copy a few days later, it’s all fine. What’s going on?”
  • “I refuse to use the taps until the plumbing works like I want it to.”
  • “Can you reset my personal iTunes password please? I forgot it.”
  • “Which password must I use?”
  • “I make my password easy to remember. Like now it’s password2.”
  • “Kids don’t focus when they use their devices in class. They’re too busy playing games.”
  • “Kids’ language and grammar skills suffer when they type rather than write.”
  • “Why doesn’t the school wifi work when I get home? Please fix it.”
  • “Please can you just quickly…”
  • “Sorry to disturb your lesson…”
  • “Can you color-code my messages in my inbox please? I think it looks cool.”
  • “Why email that when we could discuss it at the staff meeting?”
  • “I’ll have my calendar on paper, thank you. It’s easier.”
  • “I don’t use to-do lists. I’ve got it all up here.”
  • “Yes, but how will this affect my… I mean my students’ results?”
  • “My computer isn’t turning on.”
  • “Wait, I want to write those steps down.”
  • “I never clean my keyboard. I think it was white once.”
  • “Yes, it’s easy for you. You’re the big computer geek.”
  • “I don’t know where you find the time!”
  • “‘Gamification’ you say? Not likely! School is no place for games.”
  • “But how can I be sure that they will do the homework I give them on their own?”
  • “If I let my kids discover and learn independently they’ll just goof off.”
  • “How do I get rid of these page numbers so I can print this web page for my kids?”

Many thanks

Your devoted Edtech Integrator



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How to Become a Motivational Speaker in 15 Easy Steps.

(Say aloud in an inspiring tone:) Looking to make ridiculous amount of money by 'inspiring' people with bullshit they'll forget a week from now? Yes? Then follow these 15 easy steps and you can call yourself a motivational speaker.

  1. Carefully choose an arsenal of quotes which seem to be incredibly deep but which actually either don't mean anything or are just plain common sense.
  2. Mention how you don't have enough time to really get to the meat of what you're talking about, but how you can cover all of this in your intensive week long course.
  3. Learn a bit about the brain / neuroplasticity / simple psychology and throw them in as scientific justification for what you're saying.
  4. Show a TED video. Pause dramatically afterwards and look inspired / moved / thoughtful.
  5. Give your audience little activities to do to which you predict the inevitable outcome. During feedback, hold your chin thoughtfully and then reveal what it all means.
  6. Casually name-drop the important people who have attended your seminars and talks (however unwillingly). You can include these people even if they where only coincidentally in the same building as you were. Always either call them CEOs or 'thought leaders' – no one really cares what their real job titles are. And, of course, a celebrity is always a 'star' no matter how minor.
  7. A little bit of emotional blackmail never hurts. Tell them how you survived almost having cancer or that time you stoically got over missing an accident by mere seconds or even that time someone you vaguely know was almost nearly tragically taken from you.
  8. Pause frequently and look pleased with what you've just said and nod. This will make the audience think that you actually have said something meaningful. And people love imitating nods.
  9. Make up a few words and trademark them. Carefully explain how your word is different from what anyone else on the speaking circuit says. A few examples: visioneering, inspirativity, leadervation, passionship, questioneering, and so on.
  10. Misrepresent a few scientific studies to fit what you're saying. Be careful to be a bit vague on the specifics.
  11. Reduce complex ideas to simple idiotic idioms such as 'our expectations determine our outcomes' or 'our habits are our prison-keepers'. (You may steal these directly from anywhere you like so long as you're not videoing and selling this particular gig.)
  12. Design activities in which participants can inadvertently create a metaphor which describes themselves – and then proceed to tell them what it all means.
  13. Say 'we' a lot (even though you know you have nothing in common with the bunch of losers in front of you).
  14. Make sure that you use words like: spiritual, essence, love, creativity, passion, inspiration, growth, development, innovation, leadership and bravery. Say some of these in a very serious, conspiratorial stage whisper.
  15. Make up something you can brag about doing in the future. Writing a book, conquering a mountain, breaking a record – it doesn't really matter. (Obviously you have no intention of doing this any time in the future, but who's going to know, right?) Squeeze out what you have actually done until it is absolutely bone dry.

Oh, and one more:

Be sure to talk for so long that people give you a rousing round of applause when you're done – mostly out of sheer relief.


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