“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
In February 2006, Sir Ken Robinson took to the stage in Monterey, California to deliver what would become the most popular TED talk of all-time. Titled Do Schools Kill Creativity?, his presentation has been viewed approximately 100 million times across various platforms. Why has his talk gone super viral? For one, and this is not to be underestimated, it has an irresistible title. Everybody I know went to a school of some sort, and almost nobody I know feels more creative for the experience. Second, Sir Robinson displayed the perfect mix of humility, profundity, brevity, approachability, and humor. I have a fair bit of professional communications training myself, especially for a chicken, and I marvel at how pitch-perfect his delivery was on that day. Third, and most importantly, Sir Robinson set out to change lives. You can’t watch that talk without undergoing deep personal reflection. By the time you reach the end, you have an irresistible urge to leap out of your chair and applaud, just like the audience did back then.
One of the lives Sir Ken Robinson changed was mine, especially with this part:
But something strikes you when you move to America and travel around the world: every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn't matter where you go. You'd think it would be otherwise, but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities. At the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on earth. And in pretty much every system, too, there's a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they're allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don't we? Did I miss a meeting? Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.
As a student, I was always good at math. Numbers came naturally to me – I could literally feel them. I was also comparatively and objectively poor, something I was acutely aware of in most social settings. The message drilled into my head, from as early as I can remember it, was math and science are your tickets out of poverty. And to be fair, for me, they were. As a student, I worked like a maniac, often doing my math homework assignments three- and four-times over. I eventually carved out a bankable education track record and a career that was the envy of many a fellow rat-racer.
Reflecting back, while proficiency in mathematics and training in science were critical to getting me into the game, what made me stand out was my ability to communicate creatively. I could write in ways that distilled the complexities of science for easy consumption by non-scientists. I could talk to investors about nuanced technologies in ways that made them want to write checks. I could display data in ways that captured the essence of what was meant to be told, without the distracting clutter that befalls so many terribly boring and impenetrably dense scientific presentations.
I excelled at these things because I loved doing them.
None of these skills were taught to me in school, at least not directly. In the education system I emerged from, one could complete an undergraduate degree with almost no electives outside of the sciences, so I did. By the time I arrived at graduate school, there were no electives whatsoever. Ironically, I was so convinced that math and science were the keys to success, I viewed pursuing more training in the areas that would ultimately become my edge as a waste of time. How perverse.
With Doomberg, I am correcting that critical error and having the time of my life doing it. June was another strong month of growth for this Substack. I am struck at how genuinely fun these pieces are to write and touched by the outpouring of support and feedback, even from the crypto haters. I couldn’t be more grateful!
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Sir Robinson ends his talk with the touching story of Dame Gillian Lynne, world-renowned dancer, teacher, and choreographer. That’s her in the picture below, performing ballet in 1950. Look closely at the joy on her face. That’s not something you learn – it’s something you feel. In school, she was so distracted and inattentive that her teachers assumed she had a learning disorder. As the story goes, her worried mother took her to a doctor, who, after careful observation, asked to speak to the future Dame’s mother alone.
But as they went out of the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out of the room, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she was on her feet, moving to the music. They watched for a few minutes, and he turned to her mother and said, "Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school."
We only have so many days on this earth. Today is Thursday, July 1, 2021. There will only ever be one of these. I intend to live today to the maximum. I’m already working on my next Doomberg piece, the concepts behind which have been dancing in my head for weeks. I can’t wait to for the next time the curtain opens and I get to press “Publish” again.
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