• Jordan David Allen

Focused



So, school didn't go very well for you, did it?

For the vast majority of hours you spent in classrooms from kindergarten through high school, you were crushingly, desperately bored.

As a result of this chronic boredom, you did not try your hardest on most of your work, and accordingly, often had failing or borderline failing grades.

In addition to disappointing your family and frustrating your teachers by your "lack of effort," for many of us, chronic boredom also led to truancy or other choices that led to us being "in trouble" on a semi-regular basis. And as skaters, of course, we actually kind of enjoy being in trouble. Exasperating the patience of security guards and concerned citizens is something we are so used to we actually kind of get a kick out of it.

But unfortunately for your adult self today, you very well may have come to view your teachers in the same light you viewed the people kicking you out of street spots. It all just melded together as one big, scolding finger. Pay attention to the teacher! Focus on your worksheet! The stairs are for walking, not for skateboarding!

Unsurprisingly, you largely tuned these voices out.

You spent a lot of class time simply daydreaming. You may or may not have had the ability to do the work, but even if you did, you were often crawling out of your own skin with how repetitive and 2-dimensional schoolwork was.

You were likely more independent than many of your peers. If merely given some space and free time, you were able to entertain yourself by simply playing in your imagination, creating your own little world through drawing or just sheer visualization.

Skateboarding, the art form that eventually came to best captivate your attention, was not viewed as fit for or compatible with school.

This is because, as a general rule, schools are designed to get large, diverse numbers of students to all focus on the same thing at the same time. This logistically focused approach is one of the foremost design flaws of the American public school system. We've allowed ourselves to believe, erroneously, that all students need the same things. And worse, that they need the same things at the same times.

Skaters simply never fit into this mold.

We are creative souls who thrive not on conformity, passivity and routine; but on exploration, novel stimulation and sincere challenge.

So school might have been rough for you, but the future doesn't have to be. Because here's the thing, your brain is both a gift and a curse.

You are creative, but undisciplined. You are full of ideas, but struggle to make your vision into reality. You are impatient, quick to frustration and quick to give up if you don't feel likelihood of immediate success. This is why you got into skateboarding and probably not into sports.

Skateboarding works for our brains because we can bounce from trying one thing to another without needing to wait for anyone's permission. We are the quintessential self-directed learners. Think about it. What we do is completely self-paced and adaptive. Everyday we skate, we decide what we want to learn next, then we commence teaching it to ourselves. In almost all cases, this learning happens without the guidance or direction of any sort of a formal teacher.

You may have heard of this thing called ADHD. Like me, you probably have some degree of it. But never fear, you can use this potential liability to your advantage.

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell wrote persuasively about how a disproportionately high ratio of CEOs have dyslexia. These are some of the most powerful and high-functioning people in the world, and many of them have figured out how to turn something traditionally perceived as a weakness into one of their biggest assets.

Skaters, what I'm suggesting is that you don't even understand your own power.

You may think you're a mess, and you might be kinda right. But take a moment to consider one of the most extraordinary skills you probably don't even realize that you have; the ability to focus in the midst of deep sensory chaos.

Think about what street skating entails for a second.

We channel all of our cognitive firepower into performing intensely sophisticated tricks in uncontrolled environments which were not only not created for the purpose we're using them for, but are also frequently actively hostile to our accomplishing what we've set out to.

Think of the last rough cut you saw. At some point, you saw a skater landing their trick while they were literally being kicked out of the spot. Consider for a moment how exceptional that is. Imagine an NBA player getting ejected by the police while they were trying to focus on their free-throw.

Skaters, you can focus! Whether you realize it or not, you're actually better at it than most.

In spite of our teachers, we've been doing it since we were kids.