Episode: 494 |
Raffi Grinberg:
Adulting 101:


Raffi Grinberg

Adulting 101

Show Notes

Raffi Grinberg is the Executive Director of Dialog and an educator. He also created and taught the course Adulting 101 at Boston College (the most popular course in the undergraduate business school). The course covered personal finance, relationships/communication, positive psychology, and career skills. In this episode, he talks about developing this program and why it has been so successful. You can reach Raffi through Linkedin.


Key points include:

  • 05:22: Cognitive skills coaching
  • 14:18: Growth mindset
  • 34:32: Communication skills


One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:


  1. Raffi Grinberg


Raffi Grinberg, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with Rafi Grinberg, who’s going to talk to me about a course that he developed adulting 101 Rafi, welcome to the show.


Raffi Grinberg  00:16

I will thank you for having me.


Will Bachman  00:19

So talk to me about this course that you created a college course. Right? adulting 101. Tell me, who was it for? Where was it offered? And let’s talk about what did it cover?


Raffi Grinberg  00:30

Yeah, I created this course I developed the curriculum. And I taught it for two years at Boston College. Here in the Boston area, it was a course that was specifically for seniors, so forth, are undergrads who are about to graduate in their final semester. And the course was born out of a very personal experience, which is, I feel like most of what I learned in college was basically useless in the real world. And there were a lot of things that would have been useful for the real world that I never learned in either high school or college. And so my goal with the course was to help students fill in those gaps, basically, what are the most helpful real world skills to learn, and in which learning then in college will set you up for more success, happiness fulfillment in your life after you graduate?


Will Bachman  01:15

I love that, because so much of what I hope we do on this show is talk about real world skills. They don’t teach you somewhere else. So okay, so I think that you told me before, when we were chatting, a couple weeks ago that there was several different major sections of the course walk me through the syllabus a little bit. And and I think you said some exercises, just give me an overview of the course.


Raffi Grinberg  01:38

Yeah, the syllabus was broken down into four areas, cognitive skills. So those were things like critical thinking, resilience, having growth mindset. But we also talked about things like spirituality and mindfulness, essentially, how do you set up habits of mind to be a happy person in life, then the next unit was on financial skills. So that’s personal finance, credit cards, insurance, investing, for retirement, and otherwise paying your taxes, budgeting, then the third unit was relationship skills. So part of it was love and dating how to be a good partner in a romantic relationship, also how to be in general a better communicator, and have better relationships with your parents, now that you’re an adult, and the final unit was career skills. So both what are some basic things that can help you succeed in your first job? But also long term? How do you build a career path that gets you where you want to go?


Will Bachman  02:33

Okay, so this is fascinating. Can we go through each one of these sections? And you can we can double click on it a bit?


Raffi Grinberg  02:41

Yeah, absolutely. Maybe one thing I should mention before we double click into the unit’s themselves is the methodology of the course, we can spend more time on it later. But the high level is that I tried to make the course really practical, not just in terms of what you’re learning, but in terms of how you’re learning it. And so the classroom format would be a mix of like lecture and discussion, as might be typical in college seminars. But the homework assignments were practical assignments. And so when we did the unit on, for example, building resilience, the student’s assignment was to go out and get rejected by at least two different people or things. When we did the unit on for example, credit cards, the assignment was to get a credit card and sign up for one that has good terms. So every assignment is practical. And then after the assignment, they’d have to write about their experience with it.


Will Bachman  03:29

That is genius. I don’t know about you, listeners. But I’m already thinking that this should be required for every college senior, and maybe even high school, right? Because like a lot of people don’t go to college. So I mean, everyone should have this class.


Raffi Grinberg  03:43

Yeah, I agree with that, I will say I put a lot of thought beforehand into whether this would be better for college or for high school. And in the end, I came down pretty decisively on college. And in particular, as I mentioned, seniors who are about to graduate. The reason is that a lot of these practical things, people are the most engaged in learning them when they feel most relevant and most applicable to your life. And so, spring semester of senior year for a lot of American university students is when you finally realize like, things are hitting the fan and actually need to figure out this job stuff and everything else. And so that students really take things to heart put a lot of effort into the course in a way that he might in high school, but perhaps less so because a lot of them are not going to be financially independent and independent in other ways until after they finish college.


Will Bachman  04:25

Amazing. So and that makes sense to me. I mean, I’d say, given that I don’t know something like 60% of Americans don’t go to college. They should get some version of this, but I totally get it that they’d be most engaged. You know if you’re graduating from college Oh my gosh.


Raffi Grinberg  04:44

I don’t know exactly stuff. I’m basically to summarize probably that a few months before you are about to become financially independent is the best time to learn that stuff.


Will Bachman  04:52

Alright, so let’s go through maybe we could, obviously can’t give us a whole semester of adulting 101 in one podcast episode. Let’s do it, we’ll try, let’s do a whirlwind tour and kind of hit hit some of the, at least kind of go over the topics of each. And maybe you can get illustrate with some examples of the exercises that you gave. So we might as well go in the order that you had it. So let’s talk about cognitive skills, maybe go through that, that section of the course.


Raffi Grinberg  05:22

Yeah, the first unit within cognitive skills is one that is an overarching theme for the entire course. So it’s a good one to start with, which is something called self authorship. For anyone who’s familiar. This comes from a theory of adult development, which is a relatively modern and increasingly popular branch of psychology. And so the theory is basically, children, we all know go through developmental stages. And so for example, we all know that like a two year old, cannot write no matter how smart they are. But once they get to a certain age, they become physically and mentally capable of writing. Adults also go through developmental stages. But unlike children, those stages are not necessarily tied to ages. So every child unless they are impaired in some way gets to the stage in which they can write in which they can talk, and so forth. Some adults never get to higher quote, unquote, stages, we can discuss in more detail what those stages mean. But I think the shortest way of putting it is levels of maturity, levels of awareness, that help you become a fulfilled person in life. And so the biggest stage transition that I think a lot of people navigate in their early 20s, but to my earlier point, potentially never get to is the stage transition between what’s called stage three and stage four, from the socialized mind to the self authored mind. So this theory posits that most adults are in this basically stuck in the stage of the socialized mind, they’re socialized, they’re no longer quote, unquote, primitive in the ways that some teenagers are sort of subservient to their impulses. They do what is best according to what they think the rules and expectations are of people around them. But the self authored mindset, the next stage, is when you can really do things for the reasons that you want, essentially, the short way of putting it is, we all act according to the way that we think other people expect us to act. That’s the socialized mindset, the self authored mindset is to say, I’m acting according to my own values, my own principles. In order to get there, you kind of have to question everything you’ve been told, why is x value that you have actually important to you? Why is being financially independent, important to you? Why is being in a romantic relationship important to you, you have to come up for yourself with those y’s before you can actually work towards those goals. So we apply this stage transition to everything we learned in the course, we would start with a why, why is this thing important? What in what ways do you actually value it? And then the question is, how do you actually get it?


Will Bachman  07:50

And what was your exercise for this lesson, which is such a powerful lesson?


Raffi Grinberg  07:56

I will have to look that up. So this one we actually did not do an exercise for but this was the overarching theme for the next few lessons. So for example, we applied this to the skill of critical thinking. And so everyone had to take one song that they listened to on the radio or Spotify that day, and basically break down what is this song actually communicating? What is the message behind it? Because I think most of us are prey to unconscious assimilation, meaning all day we are absorbing the messages that other people are wiring into us. Even the lyrics of a song or the headline of a news article has some value set underneath it, and it is potentially subconsciously promoting that value sets, you’ve learned that skill of critical thinking basically saying, What is this thing that I’m consuming, actually saying? And then do I agree with it? Or do I not agree with it? If I do not agree with it? Should I change my mind? Should I agree with it? If I don’t, why do I not agree with it? If I do, how do I incorporate what I learned from it into my existing worldview? And potentially, that could reshape all of my other beliefs? It’s a long and arduous process, but essentially the process of critical thinking.


Will Bachman  09:01

I love that idea of picking a song. Okay. And, and then maybe even arguing against that point of view as well. I take both sides of the issue. What would the opposite of this exactly? Okay, so I can Alright, so what would the next topic be under, under cognitive skills?


Raffi Grinberg  09:23

So I mentioned resilience, facing rejection. And so that assignment was to have students go out and get rejected by two things. One had to be major and wanted to be minor. So the major one could be asking someone on date and getting rejected or applying for a job that you don’t think you’re qualified for and getting rejected. The minor one could be you know, you go to Starbucks and you ask for an extra drink for free just cuts. It was shocking how many things both major and minor the students tried to get rejected for from that they actually succeeded. I’ve had students who got jobs because this assignment, but more importantly, I’ve had students who did get the rejection that was the assignments to actively seek out the rejection and


Will Bachman  09:59

because Send me they’re telling me that this student who got a job,


Raffi Grinberg  10:04

they applied for something that they knew they were unqualified for. And in the end, they weren’t qualified for it or at least the the employer was willing to take a chance on them. It didn’t come about right away, of course, but this assignment started that that job application process. So the lesson that I tried to impart was rejections are not to be feared rejections are to be treasured. Because every rejection you have makes you less afraid of getting rejected in the future, it helps you realize that being rejected doesn’t end the world and everything good in it for you. And so I actually gave my students a little gift, which is something that I personally, my wife and I are rejections treasure chests, I gave everyone this little toy treasure chest, I said, every time you get a rejection from now and in the future, print it out and put it inside this box. And that is your treasure chest of resilience that reminds you that despite this entire treasure chest full of rejections, you’ve been able to successfully get to where you are today.


Will Bachman  10:54

Wow, that is such a good idea. Particularly, you should save those in case you eventually do become super successful. You can say look, oh, I was rejected by you know, Facebook when I was 22 years old or something. And boy, were they done because I created this big competitor, you know, so?


Raffi Grinberg  11:12

Exactly. Students plenty of Yeah, exactly. I give plenty of examples. One of my favorite ones is that college Hossaini the author of The Kite Runner, which one I forget what prize for one of the best books supposedly ever written. I really liked it too. He was rejected by more than 20 literary agents. And a literary agent who ended up accepting him in the end didn’t edit the book that much before it was published meaning 20 Something literary agents saw a near final draft of the Kite Runner and said this is not even good enough to be published.


Will Bachman  11:40

Yeah, Harry Potter. Same story, famously. Yeah. Okay, so resilience, powerful skill. And I love that exercise. I’ve seen that I’ve seen that some other places too, where it’s like, go out and get rejected every day. It’s something asked for, you know, just just, just for the experience, love that. Ask for an extra appetizer for free or something. Right. Okay, so what would be what were some other cognitive skills we don’t need to go through? Yeah, every single action that


Raffi Grinberg  12:07

we can do, but I’m gonna do one more, which I think is a big one, a skill called cognitive reappraisal. This comes from cognitive behavioral therapy CBT, which is a form of therapy for primarily used for people with depression and anxiety. But many of the skills that people learn going through that kind of therapy are helpful for everyone, to essentially build a mindset that leads to more long lasting happiness. And so the essence of cognitive reappraisal basically says that what we feel is not necessarily what’s true. You can feel like you are really bad at math. It’s not necessarily true that you really bad. It’s possible. But it’s not true that just because you feel that way. That is what is true. And so the skill of cognitive reappraisal is to help you notice the emotions you’re feeling and question whether the emotion is coming from an actual rational thought, or whether it’s just an emotion that has no basis in reality. Overall, when people engage in this over time, and practice it and end up making it into a habit, it leads to thinking that is, I wouldn’t say necessarily more positive or more negative, but just more realistic.


Will Bachman  13:09

Yeah, and even though some of the Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast and Slow, some of that book has been discredited. Now, this idea of a, you know, type one mind and the type two thinking of slowing it down. So, it takes it out of the instinctual fight or flight reaction and being more rational about it and questioning it. Exposing it will allow you to be more considered.


Raffi Grinberg  13:39

Yeah, absolutely. And we go through a few examples of what are commonly referred to as just cognitive biases. And so some of these are like, you know, my friend didn’t call me back, he must be mad at me. Well, that’s called jumping to conclusions. You don’t know if your friend is mad at you, there could be other explanations.


Will Bachman  13:56

Right. Okay. Cool. So I, and then, without going into the details of all the ones, you want to just list out the other topics in the cognitive fog unit area?


Raffi Grinberg  14:07

Yeah, we talked about having a growth mindset. We talked about spirituality and about mindfulness.


Will Bachman  14:13

Oh, what was the what was the spirituality exercise?


Raffi Grinberg  14:18

This exercise was to have everyone reflect on their upbringing, whether it was religious or not religious, and some kind of ritual that they did with their family that they have since discarded. So it could be a religious thing, like going to church that you used to do that you no longer do or you know, even if your family is not religious, at least at family dinner every night, we don’t do that anymore, that kind of thing. And basically try to identify to yourself, What are the secular benefits of that ritual? So even if I don’t ascribe to the same ideology or level of religious belief anymore, is there some benefit to the ritual itself? And do I want to bring that back into my assignment was to do it for one thing as an exercise, but ultimately, the goal is to do it for every ritual that you’ve ever done growing up and basically decide for yourself how Religious, how spiritual Do you want to be? What are the potentially secular benefits of every religion, religious ritual that I’ve done before? And do I want to bring any of that back into my life?


Will Bachman  15:11

Let’s talk about finance.


Raffi Grinberg  15:15

Yes, a big one. And this was born out of my first day at work. After college, I was working as a management consultant, which I’m sure you are very familiar with, I was working at Bain and Company. And on the first day of work, they handed us some HR forms, like we did fill out health insurance and things related to allocating taxes. And I didn’t know how to fill any of these things. And I realized nobody else in my peer group knew as well. And we’re generally thought of ourselves as like well educated, sort of working at it at a high status job. And yet, we still didn’t know the very basics of things like insurance, or taxes, which boggled my mind. And I read that was part of the realization that that sort of spurred me into eventually creating adults a one on one. But at the time, or after my management consulting days, I created a financial education app called dollars. And so the purpose was teach you the financial skills that you need to know, to set yourself up for success. The problem is, in theory, most people can learn these things through Google, but you end up learning things in a backwards order. So I’ll give an example. I had to decide if when I opened an IRA, did I want to be Roth IRA or traditional IRA? So I googled, what’s the difference? Okay, it turns out the difference comes down to when you’re taxed. Now, my question was, okay, well, how are these kinds of things taxed in the first place? What are the taxes that are applied to them? And then that made me question what, what are these investment vehicles in the first place? What is a mutual fund? And then the mutual fund, okay is made up of stocks and bonds, how to stocks and bonds work as learning things in reverse order. And I think by the time most people get far enough down that rabbit hole, they’ve essentially given up, they felt like it’s too complicated, they’re going to default to an easy answer, ask someone else for advice. But if instead, you can teach someone in a linear way, the same way that we teach people math, it becomes a lot easier. So we don’t try to teach people multiplication before addition, multiplication is a step on top of addition, in the same way, this curriculum taught people first, how to understand what is investing, what does it mean, how does it work? What is the purpose, then how do stocks and bonds work? Then how do mutual funds work? Then how are these mutual funds taxed? And then what are the different retirement account options? Okay, it started with the basic fact that I think most people don’t learn, which is, if you do not save money for retirement, you will probably not have enough money to live on when you are retired. Which is, I think, a shock to many people, you have to save money for retirement. The second part of that is there’s good news. You don’t need to save as much money as you think you do. Because you can invest the money and it will grow over time.


Will Bachman  17:38

Yeah. And most people are not saving enough money for retirement. So what were some of the modules in this section and some of the exercises?


Raffi Grinberg  17:51

So we start with what I thought was the easiest one to get people warmed up on, how do credit scores work? Why is it important to build up a credit score, and how do you get a credit card, the assignments to get a credit card, then we talked about insurance, including health insurance, but at the time since most students were not full time employed, it was about opting into auto insurance, property insurance, life insurance, whatever we need for the future for most students, when applied was property insurance, most of them did not have renter’s insurance. And once you even told the story of someone else who lost everything they had and didn’t have renter’s insurance to cover it. Then we did the biggest unit by far was on investing, covering the things that I just talked about, including retirement planning. And then we did taxes, the assignment for that was to actually do your taxes for the year by hand. So students had to print out the form and fill it out by hand in order to complete their taxes. And then the final part was on budgeting.


Will Bachman  18:46

So and what How did what kind of exercise did you give people for the investing section?


Raffi Grinberg  18:53

For the investing when I had everyone open up an IRA account and pick which mutual funds they wanted their IRA to be invested in?


Will Bachman  18:59

Oh, yeah, that’s good. I mean, all this stuff is good for me. Some listeners of the show have kind of maybe passed through adulting. One on one, but this is good ideas for for our kids. A lot of us. All right.


Raffi Grinberg  19:15

Yeah, I will say, you know, I think I think some people have this was a fair approach to personal finance. It’s like people will figure it out eventually. I think it’s generally true. Some people do figure it out eventually, some people definitely don’t. But even the ones who do make a lot of mistakes along the way. Yeah, I will say mistakes can certainly be instructive. Sometimes making a mistake is an important part of learning. But I don’t think that personal finance should be where we expect people to make mistakes, because those mistakes can be so long lasting and damaging. The metaphor I like to give is, we don’t expect students to get into a car crash in order to learn how to drive we teach Driver’s Ed preemptively. So we shouldn’t expect people to ruin their credit score or not saving up for retirement before learning how to do that. We should teach that preemptively.


Will Bachman  19:58

Yeah, and we don’t we winnings Like the average citizen of New York to just on the side structure of bond issuance for the city, right? But we do ask people every day like to figure out what’s the right mortgage to get for themselves, which is like the biggest investment they’ll make in their entire lives and take 2030 years to pay off and figuring out Okay, should I get a 20 year fixed that 30 year fixed? Should I get an adjustable rate mortgage? And I mean, look, I have an MBA, and I majored in physics. It’s like, you know, it’s sort of non trivial to figure out, you know, which is the better option 20, year 30, year 15, year AR M, et cetera, for people, you know, with a high school degree or graduated in humanities on these? I mean, that’s a complicated thing, right?


Raffi Grinberg  20:49

Yeah. And you can you can, I’m sure anyone, any of your listeners can look up the stats of like, how abysmal financial literacy in the United States, but there’s, there seems to be very little correlation between level of education meaning Did you get a bachelor’s degree? Did you get a master’s degree? And your ability to do things? Like you just said, right, because those things are not taught? Unfortunately?


Will Bachman  21:07

Yeah, I mean, to compare different mortgages. You have to do like, what a discounted cash flow and figure, you know, estimate your own earnings in the future, and what interest rates are going to be and, and increasing? I mean, it’s, that’s an area, that’s pretty tough. So one thing I have heard about financial education, or financial, personal finance kind of literacy, is that a lot of it doesn’t do any good. And maybe it’s because they’re not giving these exercises that you did. But you’ve probably I mean, you’ve looked into this I imagined looked at this research, a lot of times, they’ll give people like classes and financial literacy, and it does like zero, good. You know, six months later, they’ve forgotten every little bit of it. What was your I mean, you’ve probably looked at that what’s your take on financial literacy? And what can actually be done to help people?


Raffi Grinberg  21:57

Yeah, I think a lot of that research you cited, I haven’t seen it personally. But it resonates with research, I’ve seen about things people learn in general, not just personal finance, we forget most of what we learned, in particular, we forget most of what we learned in school, part of it is because it’s not applicable to our real lives. And part of it is even when it is it’s just not taught in a way that is conducive to retention, and to real world application of what you’re learning. And so I tried to think about this from first principles of like, forget about how every other course I’ve been in has been taught before, what is the best way to actually teach someone something new, such that they will remember it and use it. And I came up with a process. And so the process starts with reading, essentially consuming content. So before every class, someone you know, had to sign an article or a book or movie or something like that, then you’d have to think of it so not just read it. But as we talked about earlier, that process of critical thinking, really engaging with what you learned, was it trying to say do I agree with it, why or why not? Then discussing it. So once you’ve sort of taken your thinking as far as it can go in your head, you need to engage with other people’s minds to discuss, then summarize. So after every class students would have to summarize, we have to write basically five bullet points summary of what they want to remember from that class, then they would have to practice what they learned that’s doing the practical real world task, the assignments that we’ve talked about, then they would have to reflect so synthesize the assignment, write about what it was like to go through it, what you learned from doing it. And finally, review, every single class that we did for 13 or 14 weeks started with review of all previous classes. So if you go through all those steps, you read about something, you think about it, you discuss it, you summarize it, you practice it, you reflect on it, you review it, that is enough reinforcement to actually get it to be a part of your mind and your life.


Will Bachman  23:35

Wow. Okay. That’s probably why most financial literacy doesn’t work, because they don’t do all that stuff. Definitely, I think the practical exercises, that’s what you really, as an adult, I think, learn it in your gut when you’ve actually gone and done it. Let’s talk about relationship skills. So the third section of your part of your course.


Raffi Grinberg  23:56

Yeah, I think most of what people learn about romantic love growing up is 100% wrong, and sets them up to be unhappy in their relationships for the rest of their lives, movies, songs, everything else else you absorb, especially as kids and teenagers creates false expectations, sometimes because they’re wrong or sometimes because they just don’t apply to everybody. And so part of the process is deconstructing those expectations going through again, that critical thinking processes, what do I believe about love? What am I looking for in a romantic partner? What am I looking for in my relationships? And do I really believe those things? If I don’t, how do I come up with a value set that is more true to what I actually think what I actually want? And only then can we discuss quote unquote, how do you get there meaning the process of dating


Will Bachman  24:40

Okay, so when you so you think most of it is wrong, and I wouldn’t disagree with that, what are some of the things that I did you just kind of hope people come to their own conclusions? Or do you have a point of view on what is Yeah,


Raffi Grinberg  24:54

so the reading assignment for this class was to pick a romantic comedy or Disney movie and and watch it again, now that you’re older and write down what you think it’s trying to say about love and whether or not you agree with that. And I think people found all kinds of flaws and things, they hadn’t realized that they had to use the earlier term unconsciously simulated. So one example is, people I think unconsciously. Similarly, the idea that being in love feels exactly how other people describe it. Right? Being in love means you go temporarily crazy, and you’re obsessed and things like that. That certainly applies to some people. But that’s not how everyone experiences love. For some people love is something that grows over time. For some people love is something that’s less feelings based and more actions based, and applies differently to everyone. And so you don’t want to say to yourself, I didn’t feel the way that love is, quote, unquote, supposed to feel according to all these things that I’ve unconsciously simulated. Therefore, this must not be the right person for me. That may or may not be true, but you have to come up for yourself, what should love feel like to you?


Will Bachman  25:54

Yeah. And in the relationship section, was it mostly around romantic relationships? Or did you also get into friendships, and you mentioned that you did talk about parents and other


Raffi Grinberg  26:05

we didn’t, an entire section on relationships with parents as you become more independent. The last thing I wanted to say about the romantic relationships thing is the assignment for that was to ask someone out on a date, or if you were already in a relationship with someone to have a conversation about what you’re going to do in your relationship after you graduate. So some students were, I don’t know what the word is appalled, shocked by the assignment. But it had some really amazing and interesting results. One person went on a date that ended up becoming a relationship, one person had a conversation with at the time, their boyfriend or girlfriend that led to them breaking up, because they realized that they didn’t want to stay together after college. Exactly. But one couple had a conversation that led to them deciding that they wanted to live together after college, and now they are engaged. Okay. So if I take the blame for the breakup, I got the credit for that one.


Will Bachman  27:06

Right, you’re wanting one. All right. I think this course, let’s make breaking up. But that’s okay. That’s a one on one record. All right. Parents talking, let’s talk about that a little bit. So that is a transition period, you’re sort of sheltered kid dependent. And then you emerge from college. And hopefully, you’ll be on your own not living in the basement. But talk to me about that transition in the relationship. And then obviously, it keeps changing as you get older. And a lot of us listening to this show might have elderly parents who now we’re kind of taking care of them. And that’s, you know, changing. But talk to me about the parent section of your course.


Raffi Grinberg  27:55

Yeah, it starts with a principle, which by now probably sounds familiar of, most people don’t know how they want the relationship to be with their parents as they become independent. And so the first step is to just figure it out for yourself. What do you really want from them? What do they want from you? And the reason for this was to watch an AMAZING film. It’s from the 1970s called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Have you seen it?


Will Bachman  28:16

Sidney Poitier a. Right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Okay. I have actually not seen it, but I’ve heard it referred to, so I probably shouldn’t see it, but I haven’t. But so


Raffi Grinberg  28:27

there’s an amazing scene from towards the end of the movie, which I recommend looking up on YouTube, even if you don’t see the movie, just watch that scene, which we rewatched again, in class A basically speaks at the character that Sydney plays, giving to his father, essentially saying, you have all these expectations of me. And now’s the time at which you have to let go of these expectations. Let me decide for myself what I want from my life. I think that speech doesn’t apply to all parent child relationships, but a large number of them in which parents still treat their adult children, like kids, not in the sense of their coddling, but in the sense that they still have a very concrete and specific vision of what they want them to be doing. And really good parenting for adults is the opposite to help them do what part of the partly this course did it figure out for themselves, what do they want from life?


Will Bachman  29:15

So true. So they watched that? And what were was there any exercises here? Like have a conversation with your parents or anything like that?


Raffi Grinberg  29:24

You guessed it exactly. Have an intentional conversation with your parents. So it wasn’t just call them up and chat it was tell your parents, at least one of your parents, whoever you want to talk to you in advance that you want to have a conversation? That is a DTR? Right? Define the relationship and set aside time for it and then habit and basically hear from them. What do they want from your relationship? Tell them what you want. And ideally try to start down the path of coming up with a shared understanding.


Will Bachman  29:51

Interesting, I love that there’s a love there’s an acronym DTR define the relationship?


Raffi Grinberg  29:56

Well, I think yeah, kids these days, right, use that term. ETR usually for romantic relationships, the innovation here was applied to parents, I mean, should apply to any, almost any relationship in your life have, you can be very clear with the other person and what you expect and what they expect from you. And if it’s a strong enough relationship, which is built on trust, I think it can lead to better long lasting relationship.


Will Bachman  30:18

Did you get into friendships and in the course,


Raffi Grinberg  30:22

we just touched on it. And by the way, I have a document here of all the things I would like to do differently or better in the future, if I teach the course again, and doing more about friendships is part of that. And I’ll tell you why. So I survey the students, not only after they take the course, actually survey them every week during the course, which is a whole part of the skill of learning how to give and receive feedback, which we can talk about. But I also survey them afterwards. And I’ve been serving some students graduated already for three years now, about basically, what do they still remember from the course? What do they find most useful? What did they find not to be useful or to not be true in the real world? And also, what do they wish they had learned? And I think the number one thing, feedback that keeps coming back as they wish we had focused entire unit on friendships, because a lot of them are finding it hard to maintain friendships when they live far away from people or to form new friendships when they’re living someone new now that they’re an adult.


Will Bachman  31:10

Yeah, it’s so easy to have friendships in college. And it gets really hard as a as an adult. So I second that exactly. Adding that I mean, it’s,


Raffi Grinberg  31:21

it’s in the principal, I think is the same, it’s it in college, you can have friends, by default, because they’re living close, close quarters with people, when you start to become friends with them, you’re gonna see them every day because you eat together, you’re in the same class. But as an adult, everything has to be more intentional. You have to make the time to see your friends, you have to make the time to call them you have to make the time to meet new people. I often described for people who are introverts like me, going to a party where you don’t know many people can be a chore. Some extroverts find it intrinsically fun. Some introverts find it intrinsically like a chore. But it’s unnecessary chore. It’s kind of like some people approach dating, right is, the first date is not necessarily gonna be good, you might have a lot of bad first dates before you finally meet the right person. But it’s part of the process. It’s how you get there. So you go to a party so that you can try to meet new people on the hope that at least one of them will become a friend. And the only way to increase your odds of finding those people, whether it’s a new friend, or a romantic partner, is to increase the


Will Bachman  32:15

Yeah, a party or something, you know, could be go play, you know, pick up basketball, or have ultimate frisbee or a knitting circle or something. But it’s, you need to, yeah, I mean, and maintaining friendships, it’s just as an adult. Okay, so we read that one. But I think that is such an important topic. So and it’s like, up to 22, you have no idea like high school or elementary school, you’ve always been surrounded by friends. And it’s so easy. And then all of a sudden, it’s like, it’s like going from, you know, having a parents cook for you to all of a sudden you have to cook your own food, like, Oh, this is trick, tricky.


Raffi Grinberg  32:55

Another unit, I wish we had done cooking. Actually, I didn’t mention this, but part of the course was that we’d carve out about 15 minutes every week for a session, the section that was not taught by me was taught by one of the students. So each student have to give a presentation once during the semester. And they picked a topic for the presentation. And so a lot of these presentation topics covered some of the things that the macro curriculum did not cover. So one time the student did teach about cooking One time someone talks about friendships and so forth.


Will Bachman  33:21

I think this needs to be a two semester course Rafi part, you know, fall and spring. We need to we need to expand it. Okay. But before we do that career skills, so that’s kind of closest to this podcast, we talk about


Raffi Grinberg  33:35

career and I do one more thing on relationship skills, which I think is important. We did it a unit on how to communicate constructively. I think, sadly, it’s something that most people don’t learn myself included, of just basic principles of good communication with other people, especially when you disagree. And this is drawing on another aspect of my background, I co founded a nonprofit called the constructive dialogue Institute with Jonathan Hite and Caroline mill. What purpose was this? You know? Yeah, we worked together for a couple of years,


Will Bachman  34:03

man. Okay, I’m so that’s amazing.


Raffi Grinberg  34:07

So, actually use the online. The online course that we created was part of my adulthood, one, one course. But teaching people that skill of how to talk to people in a constructive way, when you disagree with them.


Will Bachman  34:20

What are some of the, if you had to sum it up in a billboard or sort of what’s the what’s the bullet points on the key things that we should know about communication? Give us give us the give us the listen


Raffi Grinberg  34:32

to learn rather than listen to refute. So I think a lot of people understand that in order to have a constructive disagreement, you have to truly listen to the other person. But a lot of people pay lip service to listening meaning I’m going to listen to what you’re saying. So that in my head, I can either prepare what I’m going to say next or refute what you’re gonna say. In reality, I think one of the only ways to surmount barriers that disagreements pose is to truly be curious about the other A person’s perspective to truly try to understand it so that if you were asked to you could articulate even better than they could themselves, then you can share what you think.


Will Bachman  35:08

Yeah, there’s, in kind of the world of Giulia, gala Fei and Tyler Cowen, and all these different folks, sometimes it’s called Steele Manning would be to, rather than straw Manning is writing the sort of the easy to debunk argument of your opponent, steel Manning would be to write the most powerful argument that you can for the other side, right, with the as best supported as possible. And if you can do that, then you’ve then you’ve listened.


Raffi Grinberg  35:38

Exactly, I think that is one aspect of it. The problem with only using steel Manning as a technique is it comes from more of this rationalist school of thought, which I personally subscribe to, I think it’s, it’s very helpful. But sometimes if your goal is assuming that a person you might come up with arguments, they’re not even thinking of, to ultimately try to justify their point of view or explain it from rational perspective, where in reality, that’s not always what a lot of people are doing. They’re not actually trying to prove that they’re right or come up with all the reasons they’re right. They might believe something for an emotional reason or for reason they can’t articulate and really what you’re trying to do is understand where they’re coming from. So again, sometimes where they’re coming from, yes, I have rational release reasons for believing what I do. I want you to understand those rational reasons or steel man them if you can, but sometimes it’s like you just don’t understand, right? And really, what you’re trying to do is understand why do you feel the way that you do right now?


Will Bachman  36:26

Yes, sometimes I’ve been told people don’t necessarily want a solution. They just want you to listen and understand how they’re feeling. I’ve been told


Raffi Grinberg  36:33

that. Yeah, but those people need me to fix their problems.


Will Bachman  36:38

Okay, so communication, alright, so really understanding the other person’s perspective, not to refute them, but to understand. Okay, so careers, what are some of the career skills that you were teaching impressionable college seniors.


Raffi Grinberg  36:55

Part of it was how to succeed in your first job. So basic workplace skills, I don’t think the college environment for Posey for one example I’ll give them this is actually something we work on throughout the entire semester. I think college for the most part teaches you how to be a bad writer, if you’re going into any career other than academia, because they teach you how to write things in a wordy way, in an academic way, that just is horrible. In the workplace, you don’t want to write someone a five paragraph email. So part of what I was trying to do throughout the course when, after every assignment, remember, students would write a reflection, that reflection had to be short, I would penalize them, they would lose points on the grade if it went over a certain word count. And so over time was trying to beat students into or out of these bad habits into how to write more concisely and much more directly, just you have a point, make it move on. So this unit focused on that in particular, but over the course of semester, that’s what we were trying to get to


Will Bachman  37:52

business emails, keep it short, lead with the answer. What else what other career skills other than writing short, snappy, to the point emails


Raffi Grinberg  38:04

we talked about, I mentioned, this, again, is a semester long thing of how to give and receive feedback. So after every week, in the course, I would do a survey of the students. So basically, how useful they found the material, how useful they found my instruction style, and what improvements they would want me to make to it. First of all, super helpful to me, right, I don’t think it’s a good idea for professors or teachers to only get feedback at the end of the semester, because then it’s too late to do any of that stuff until you’re teaching it again. So every week, I was trying to learn how to be a better teacher how to make the content even more helpful to the students for the rest of the semester. But the students got to practice that skill of giving feedback, I would give them feedback on their feedback, I’d say I really appreciate that you gave me this, you know, constructive criticism. Here’s what I love from you in order to understand how to make it even more actionable. And every week a different student would play the role of ombudsman, meaning they were in charge of reading all the feedback from that week, the entire survey, synthesizing it and delivering it to me in five minutes, basically telling me, what can I do better about that lesson? How can I make this lesson better?


Will Bachman  39:02

You even outsource the reading of the communications. I love it.


Raffi Grinberg  39:07

Give them so everyone got a turn at practicing how to deliver feedback in real time in a way that was helpful to me. Yeah, right. And then I would want them to learn how to integrate feedback too. So there’s another workplace skill of you never really have a final draft until it’s final. So in college, you turn an essay and you get a grade. And most of the time, that’s it in the workplace, you turn in the draft, and then you get feedback. And then you iterate. And then you get more feedback. And then you iterate. It’s kind of silly to give someone a grade before they’ve had a chance to take your feedback and improve their writing. So that’s what we did for the essay every week as well as I would give feedback on it. And then they would have to incorporate the feedback and revise the essay and the revised version would be their final grade.


Will Bachman  39:46

Any other career topics? These are amazing. These are fantastic.


Raffi Grinberg  39:50

We did negotiating, and so the assignment for negotiating was you have to negotiate with me what your grade should be for this week. So most of you cuz there’s a whole process for how I assign a grade, it was based on participation in the class, it was based on the written assignment that was that revised for this week it was you have to email me. And essentially you can negotiate with me back and forth about what your grade should be and why I


Will Bachman  40:14

love it. And, you know, one thing that I kind of learned in my first job, which was the Navy, was how to number one, like, do Completed Staff Work, which meant, if you identify an issue, don’t just go to your boss and say, Hey, there’s this problem. It’d be to, you know, look into the facts, develop a fact base developed set of recommendations, a, here’s this issue, here’s what I recommend, please sign here, if you approve, or, you know, here’s the option B kind of thing already for them. So they just have to say go approved. What, you know, any any kind of sessions that you had on that kind of piece about how to not just no longer you’re no longer just doing assignments? Right, your job now is to actually create value, and not just turn in, you know, essays. How about this, that how to be in the workforce, and actually contribute to the organization as opposed to just doing assignments? Like you were doing for 18 years?


Raffi Grinberg  41:22

Yeah, and this is the term that I learned my first job that I still use this ownership, what does it mean to really own your role to own a project? And so this was I taught in the context of just managing up basically put yourself in the shoes of your manager, and always think, what would make their life easier? Oftentimes, the answer is if I do more if I do more myself if I figure out more myself, or ask the right questions, but that’s essentially how I summarize that skill of learn how to put yourself in the shoes of your manager, so you can make their lives as easy as possible.


Will Bachman  41:52

And did you get into any of actual career search kind of guidance? Resume? Yes. And that was in that kind of


Raffi Grinberg  42:00

the final piece? Yes. So this was also taught through the context, that is by now familiar a figure out what you want, why you want it and how to get there. So obviously, what you want from your career is never certain, and it’s changing over time. And for most people, it’s a lifelong journey of constant iterating. But at least you can have a starting point. And something to aim for. That was actually a key lesson of a book that all the students read over the course of the semester, which I highly recommend called the defining decade by Beck J, one of the main points of that book is, even if you don’t know exactly what you want, it’s better to start with something you could aim towards. And over time, you can change where you’re aiming. But if you aim nowhere, you’ll end up nowhere. So for this particular assignment, they have to find three people on LinkedIn, who have a career that they think they would like to have, basically, what is the job title? What is the company and think about, you know, would this actually appeal to me what I want to have the job that this person has, and most of these people were like, 1020 30 years out in their career could be something extremely senior, ambitious, whatever it is, find three people. And then the assignment was reach out to those people, and try to convince them to have a conversation with you. And of course, I taught them some techniques for doing that. But ultimately, the point was, learn from that person, what is their job, actually, like? Does it sound when they talk to you as appealing as it looked on paper or on LinkedIn? And then if it did, ask them how they got there? What was their journey? What were the credentials, the backgrounds, the qualifications, they needed to get that job. So in ideal world, what you learned from this assignment is how to reach out to people, how to build relationships with potential mentors, how to find out what a job is actually like, because that’s super important. A lot of people realize too late that the roll is not what they expect him to could have just learned that by talking to someone, and then to learn how to create a plan and build the the career path that you that you need in order to get where you want to go. Wow,


Will Bachman  43:48

I love that advice. This sounds like an amazing course. What are your next steps with it? Are you going to write a book? Are you going to start a show, I mean, this sounds like something that should get to more people.


Raffi Grinberg  44:02

I would love to so just some stats because I was obsessed with these stats at the time, as I mentioned, collecting feedback all the time, the course filled up within less than one minute of registration each time that it was offered. So it was popular. The students rated extremely highly, it was the highest rated course in the department. And as I mentioned, I surveyed the students multiple years out and sort of the the results were not only are they using what they learned from the course, but it’s actually impacted their lives in material ways. So essentially, I know with some degree of certainty that the students enjoyed it. They found it useful, and they actually has been their lives and it’s potentially made their lives better. So now the question is how can work people benefit from this and as you mentioned it bouncing around a couple of potential options, including one day teaching the course again, one day, potentially teaching it online at a bigger scale, or writing a book that everyone can read.


Will Bachman  44:55

And I could also see this as a kind of like a David Perell. Writing online courses, I’m going to online course with a cohort because it seems like it’s not just a self paced course, this would be something that you really want to do as a cohort. So you can do these exercises reflect on them together. And so I hope that you pursue one of those, because this is like, Yeah, I think, yeah,


Raffi Grinberg  45:21

there’s a lot of evidence that says it. You know, going back to your question of how to make the education sticky, having a peer group is super important, right? They keep you accountable to actually sticking with the course to actually discussing it, I think that would definitely be an important part of it. One educational medium that I think is definitely underrated is live streaming, I would love to experiment with this in the future of using a platform like twitch.tv, not just for playing video games, but for actually teaching or some form of like edutainment. Twitch I think is brilliant. Because people get to know the streamer as a person, they keep watching the same streamer over and over not because they only want to watch them playing the game, but also like, they just want to be entertained by them. And then they can chat with each other. And there’s that constant chat going on interaction both with the streamer and with the audience. So some kind of adulting one on one live stream where it’s like, both teaching the curriculum, but also answering questions live, I think could be a good format for this.


Will Bachman  46:12

I’m looking forward to what the channel that you decide to take, for listeners that want to, like sort of follow, follow this and stay in touch with you or or kind of follow what you do with it. Is there a place that you would point them online? Do you want to point them to your LinkedIn or some other place where they can stay up to date on your plans with this?


Raffi Grinberg  46:36

I appreciate the question, I will give you an answer. But I will start with a caveat. The caveat is I tend to keep somewhat of a low profile online because of what I do right now. It’s been about three years since I taught the course. And right now I run an organization called dialog that brings together leaders from around the world to have conversations off the record. And so because of the Off The Record nature, we try not to keep a lot of our students, things that we do online, and I don’t have a big public presence, nor do I have a Twitter, and so forth. That is the reason if people want to connect, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, I do check my LinkedIn messages. So you can look up Rafi Grinberg, and try to take to heart I guess what I said, which is how to write a good cold, LinkedIn reach out, that would appeal to me, and hopefully we can have a conversation together at some point.


Will Bachman  47:19

Fantastic. All right, Robbie. This has been a lot of fun and given me some ideas about stuff to talk to my kids about or exercises to give them. Go set up your IRA, go get some insurance. Go get rejected. I love it. I’m going out on a date today. So this was a lot of fun. Rafi, thanks so much for joining in. And what I mean sounds like you’ve had a profound impact on those students that you taught at Boston College, and I hope you were able to scale it up and bring that to a wider audience.


Raffi Grinberg  47:53

Thank you so much. Well, this was a pleasure.

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