Greg shares some things. Monthly.
View this email in your browser

First Thoughts

I'm not a designer. I'm not an artist. I'm not creative. I can't draw.

About a year ago, after reading Carol Dweck's Mindset, I was confronted by my own beliefs about myself. I believed I could improve every other area of my life, but I believed these "right-brain" skills were binary: either you were born with the ability to create or you weren't. And seemingly, not many people were born with these abilities. But instead of focusing on my inability, I decided to focus on my possibility.

Design can be learned (or at least copied!) and creativity begets creativity. All I needed was a little spark. This month, my theme is Design. Not in a "go-buy-a-Wacom-tablet-and-set-of-sketchpads" way, but in all the ways that design is already inherent in my work and life. So far, one of my biggest learnings? Empathy. Design is about empathy. Understanding those around you and meeting their needs through something you create.

What will you create today? And how will you meet the needs of those around you?

Reader's Digest

Happy City

Charles Montgomery


  • Bogotá, Colombia is systematically working to improve city-dwellers' happiness through the strategic redesign of the city itself. First up? An annual day without cars...
  • Cars are killing us. And our commutes. (Most of us know this already, but the data presented plus compelling stories will make you think twice.)
  • Building more roads or even more lanes on existing roadways actually makes urban sprawl (and commute times) worse, not better.
  • The difference between density of population and overcrowding is not numerical, but psychological.
  • The Happiness Paradox is powerful and real: what we choose and what is best for us are not often aligned.

Key Quote:

“Unfortunately, when choosing how to live or move, most of us are not as free as we think. Our options are strikingly limited, and they are defined by the planners, engineers, politicians, architects, marketers, and land speculators who imprint their own values on the urban landscape.”  

The Guardian did a nice write-up here (in case you want more than my summary, but less than a book, of course). Also, for those that really want to geek out on technology and urban design, here's a free ebook.

Around the Web

The Mirage  

TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project) released a report called The Mirage a few months back. It highlights and details exactly why professional development sucks. (And I'm confident they wouldn't summarize their work as such, but hey, I'm writing this email, not them.) The report is significant in two aspects: 1) the actual layout and overall design of the document is astounding. You will find yourself sucked into the content just based on the aesthetics. This points to 2) designing professional development is as much about the design of the forms/functions of learning as it is the content itself. (See what they did there?)

Do yourself a favor. Click here and even if you don't read it, skim the layout.

Key Quote:

"If our students need choices, (teachers) need choices too. We are differentiating for our kids, but no one is differentiating for me."

What I'm Learning

Human-Centered Design

Starting two weeks ago, three coworkers and I started a seven-week course on the concepts IDEO and the Stanford have made famous. Stay tuned for more on what I'm learning!

Bonus: Kadenze has excellent design-centric courses. Check them out here.

Just for fun:

I used to say, "I'm not artistic" or "I'm not creative." But more and more, I'm learning how much of creativity and design is about developing a skill set, especially when there are so many great tools these days. My understanding of color theory, design principles, and graphic layout has been greatly expanding by tools like Canva or, one of my new favorites, Coolors.


A Small Request

If you're enjoying or getting something useful/practical out of this, would you mind sharing it with one other person? Just forward this email and they'll be all set! If you really want to up the ante, use one of the sharing links below.

Copyright © 2016 First Thoughts, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp