01 February 2010

School vs. Life

I have just started reading a book called "The Element" by Ken Robinson. I haven't even gotten through the first chapter yet and I need to blog about it. He talks about how traditional school education will actually stifle your potential genius if it isn't recognized and channelized individually. I resonate with this message a whole lot due to my own school experiences.

I was considered "dumb" in school, I didn't make the 90% that would've classified me as "the future doctor, engineer, or lawyer". Instead I loved to read sci-fi stories, study English and the arts, and had a flair for language and poetic expression. Many of my school teachers expressed to my parents that I would be a problem child growing up and that my future isn't so bright because I could not count and wouldn't memorize mathematical formulas very well. I even heard stories going around that I was only kept in school because I would win them swimming championships. I often wondered in my later life why the physical sciences meant so much in my society and the humanities was of lower value in our school system at the time. It came down to a simple belief that said, "Well you won't get a real job studying poetry and there's no money in drawing sketches." I and many of you might have consistently received this message growing up, and in the meanwhile our talents went unnoticed.

What positive correlations do school grades have with life achievements? I've truly come to believe that school is great for one thing only: reading. If you know how to read, the whole world can be in your hands. But 10 years of traditional schooling did not tell me where my talents are. On the contrary, my natural abilities were more subdued and repressed with significant guilt and shame attached to not conforming to institutionalized intelligence. My love for art and writing were looked at as cop out ways to escape studying for challenging exams in Physics and Chemistry (although I absolutely loved Physics as it intuitively introduced me to Philosophy and questions about reality that I now apply to people in my consulting practice).

Isn't it ironic that the world's foremost leaders are either high school or college dropouts? What separated them from the rest of the school-going sheep? These words come to my mind when thinking about a Bill Gates, a Steve Jobs, a Paul McCartney and countless others who defy the prevailing social system - non-conforming, creative, risk-takers, pure self-belief, trusting their gut, creators of their own destiny against any and all odds. I also believe what shaped their futures would have to be special teachers in their life who saw a spark in them for an ability that was out of the ordinary and individually unique. I also had 2 teachers that brought the best out of me and shaped my career to what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. So watch out for who your true teachers are!

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I am so lucky and glad that I didn't internalize the negative messages of my school instructors, because they weren't really teachers. They were just being paid to write on a blackboard and make us repeat things like we were parrots. I am grateful that my true teachers found me when I was ready to give up old thinking, and saved me from doing something I wouldn't have loved at all.

I always talk about bottom-line impact, and I wanted to let the world know that doing what you love will surely make you money. It may take a while, or it may be overnight. But there is no option for us to work in an area that we hate to wake up to, no matter how good the world thinks we are at it. Talent is when you do what you absolutely love with all your natural instincts. A talent cannot be forced into coming alive by others who might be living their dreams through you, or others who think you ought to follow the bell curve to stay safe in the world. I personally am proud of calling myself an outlier, a skewed statistic, someone who laughed at the predictions of people who saw me as a one-dimensional entity back in school.

Don't let school tell you what you should be doing later on in life. Only you can answer that for yourself. Work should be play! That is when you are in your element.

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