Recently I watched a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson called How Schools Kill Creativity and I was blown away by how much it spoke to me. If you have not seen it, I have posted a link to it at the bottom of this post, but I would encourage you to do so. In his talk, Sir Robinson talks about how we are taught from an early age to focus on things like math and reading. He gives examples of how adults tell children things like you have to study hard to get a job like a doctor or a lawyer or a banker. Adults rarely encourage children to become an artist or a dancer. His point is that not everyone is a doctor or a lawyer. Not everyone is going to make a good accountant or a banker. Not everyone should go to college. Everyone is different and we need to think about education differently and we need to embrace the diversity of people.
This really spoke to me because for most of my life I have never really known what it is I wanted to do with my life. When I was a kid, I loved sports and I played a lot of different ones and I was good at a lot of them but I was never the best player on the team. I remember whenever I would take up a new sport I would practice on my own for hours at a time, but interestingly I would only practice to the point where I became good enough but I never became an expert at it. Another example of this is Chess. I got into chess for a while as a kid and I was pretty good. I competed in High School and I remember spending hours reading books on openings and middle games but then I just sort of stopped. When I got older, I took some programming courses and I learned Java and C++ and Visual Basic, but I never did anything with this knowledge. I never applied for any jobs to be a coder or anything.
I could go on and on with examples like this. Photography, acting, engine mechanics, the medical field, writing, accounting, carpentry, fishing, cooking, electrical; the list goes on and on. I have tried so many things and yet I have never found the one thing that could capture my attention and never let it go. Yet I read stories of all of successful people who have known what they wanted to do from an early age. This passion and this focus has always eluded me and society has taught me that because I do not have a specific degree or a specific skill set, I am not as valuable to society as someone who is. As a result I have hidden in the background and been afraid to come out and be proud of who I am.
This leads me to the blog posting my wife sent me by the king of bloggers, Tim Ferriss, the author of the 4 Hour Work Week. It is called The Top 5 Reasons to be a Jack of all Trades and you can find the link to this blog post at the end of this post as well.
Ferris’s point was to embrace being a Jack of All Trades and he referred to it as being a generalist and he gave examples like Steve Jobs and other CEOs. One example I can speak to with firsthand knowledge is George Bodenhiemer. He was the President of ESPN and was responsible for most of the growth of ESPN during the late 90s and early 2000’s. His biggest claim to fame was negotiating moving Monday Night Football to ESPN and making ESPN the main sports arm of the ABC network. Believe it or not, Bodenhiemer started in the mailroom as a driver and worked his way up through marketing, affiliate and ad sales, and research before becoming the president of ESPN. Bodenhiemer was not the best at any one thing, but his well-rounded knowledge and willingness to embrace and learn new things helped propel him to the top.
At the end of his article, Ferriss takes a quote from the book Tuxedo Park about one of the world’s greatest generalist, Alfred Lee Loomis who helped change the course of World War II.
Loomis did not conform to the conventional measure of a great scientist. He was too complex to categorize a financier, philanthropist, society figure, physicist, inventor, amateur, dilettante a contradiction in terms.
So what does all of this mean? It means you should expect randomness in this blog. You will notice a variety of sections and these will probably change as time goes on but you are welcome to join me on this journey of organized randomness.
How Schools Kill Creativity – Sir Ken Robinson
The Top 5 Reasons to be a Jack of all Trades – Tim Ferriss