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)?



Here's how most systems work (including the school system and the being-a-kid system and even the big government system):


So you want to change the OUTPUTS (what you get out of it). What that means is that you have to change the PROCESSES. But the only way to do that is to change the INPUTS. So, if you want to change the system, you have to change what you put into it.


Here are few ideas on how to do this:

  • Realize that big disruptions only happen as a result of a series of smaller ones building up. Think about that while you read the rest of these…
  • Ask questions smartly. I don't mean be a smart-mouth. I mean try to ask your parents and teachers and friends good questions. These can be about themselves, about why things work the way they do or anything else you've thought through first. It's amazing how people can suddenly think about you as mature and responsible just because they think you can think.
  • Listen to the answers. People often have interesting and useful things to say. (And you might be able to use what they say later.)
  • Do research really well. Don't believe those 'fact' posts on Facebook and get smart about how you find information on Google. And while you're at it know this: research projects aren't about 'putting it into your own words'. That's plagiarism as much as copying, pasting and removing hyperlinks is. You want to put what you find out into your own THOUGHTS. This will mostly help you at school, but with more and more teachers getting into this 'student-driven learning' thing, it will help you a lot. I am pretty sure though that you will use these solid research skills at Uni and even in your job one day.
  • Get ahead in technology. I'm not just talking about social media. We all know Snapchat and Instagram. I'm talking about cool creation and presentation apps mostly, but also basic spreadsheets, word processing and a bit of coding. Being ahead of the adults will secure you massive respect from them – but being ahead of your classmates will secure you a future.
  • Be nice. Really. It makes things so much easier so often. Plus, when you're nice, people are often nice back.
  • Learn to be assertive. If you don't get what you want straight away or if people are being unreasonable, don't have a tantrum or sulk or shout, instead, be calm, be firm and be honest – you'll often win them over.
  • Know when to walk away. (It isn't as often as you think it is, though.)
  • Find short-cuts that don't involve doing things badly but do involve doing them more efficiently.
  • Take the time to goof around and have fun. Enjoy being young, but remember YOLO is for fools.
  • Refuse the box. People will always want to fit you into one or other category. You might even want to fit into a few yourself. Don't.
  • Don't judge other people too quickly, or be so quick to try and fit them into a little box.
  • Pick your place and time. It's often that simple. A different place, a different day, and things turn out differently.
  • Add flair to everything you do. If you just grind stuff out to get it out of the way, people forget you. If you add something rad, people remember you.
  • Hack your attitude. You don't always have to react predictably.
  • Think.
  • Read.
  • Find one thing you really love and get better at it.
  • Save time where you can. This is especially true of getting difficult or sucky things out of the way. Get them done sooner (but not necessarily more quickly) and you'll have more time to do the awesome things you want to do.
  • Get involved in sports and other after-school activities like chess and dramatics and debating. Seriously. You make more friends this way. Plus you learn to push past your own limits.
  • Sleep. Your body needs it. And so does your brain.

So honestly, at the end of this, you might not make a big dent on the system, but you will most definitely make a dent on yourself and what you get out of school and general life. And maybe, just maybe, that will mean that one day (maybe even one day soon) you will actually make a dent on the world.














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