If you’re anything like me, you were probably brought up realising that maybe you weren’t great at everything. And maybe that wasn’t good enough. School will do that to do. At some stage, you may have been an impressionable youth and a sponge for knowledge about the world and living in it.
But you were also forced to be a competitor. To be graded. To be judged. To be compared. Sucks the fun out of everything doesn’t it?
The Next Edison
And if you didn’t match up to the rest of the class, or the standards by which you should be judged according to the rules of the educational system, you needed to improve on your weaknesses or be deemed a failure for the rest of your life.
If you were bad at math or science, then maybe you had to get a tutor. If you were failing in sports or gym, then maybe you were forced to do after-school sports. We spent so long trying to improve on our weaknesses to get the grade, that we didn’t spend enough time finding and doing the things we were good at.
Pretty harsh lesson huh.
We have been moulded our whole lives to believe that if we are weak, something isn’t right and we need to fix that. As adults some of you may still believe that you are failures in life, because of how you were treated in school. And to that I call bullsh*t. You were never a failure, because you didn’t measure up to society’s rulebook.
Did you know that despite being described as “dumb and scatterbrain” by his teachers, Thomas Edison went on to become America’s greatest inventor and created one of the world’s most powerful companies.
How many kids today are getting judged and degraded by teachers and parents the same way because they don’t fit in with the norm, and who will grow up with no belief in themselves? They could’ve been the next greatest inventor.
Most of the educational system is based on remembering anyway. If you had a good memory and could recite what the teacher wanted you to remember, you passed the test.
I remember the dastardly up-until-the-last minute cram sessions and pressure of uni exams, but you know what, as soon as it was over… gone. My mind wiped it clear. I could not tell you anything about what I studied. That’s how great the educational system is today (or maybe that’s more the limitations of my weak-ass mind [shrugs]).
Embracing Our Strengths
It’s so sad to see young kids be moulded into being something that they’re not. To feel like failures or feel like they have to be better than everyone else. To be dragged down to a median standard across the board in all things, instead of emboldened to aspire for the topics and interests that they get excited about and really excel at.
If school was more like the latter, there would be less kids dropping out and a lot more kids enjoying school and coming out of it as positive, self-confident, ambitious people with direction in life.
Whatever happened to treating everyone as unique individuals? To encourage uniqueness and differences in each other? To encourage our natural strengths and nurture our talents, instead of targeting our weaknesses and all the things that we can’t do well?
Drop Outs who Thrive
There’s no wonder then that there are so many millionaires and billionaires today, that didn’t even graduate from high-school or finish university.
A little bit of googling will tell you that people such as Richard Branson, Jay-Z, Robert DeNiro, Peter Jackson, Walt Disney and Quentin Tarantino didn’t graduate high school and Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey dropped out of college.
Maybe it’s because they did drop out, that they were then free to pursue their natural abilities, strengths and talents instead of being moulded to be average. And because of it, they went on to help change the world.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” – Mark Twain
But I digress. My point is this, we shouldn’t be focusing on our weaknesses. We should be building on our strengths.
There’s a Bear in There
It’s not just a concern for kids though, because we take that insecurity, that lack of worthiness, with us to adulthood. But you know what, it’s not too late to turn that around. It’s only now as adults these days, that we’re starting to explore what are passions are, what we like to do or what our natural talent is. For some of us it’s not so easy because we’ve been told by others what to do or think or be, all our lives.
Education doesn’t end the moment we leave school btdubs. I’m constantly learning new things everyday. Read more, ask questions, explore different avenues or ways of doing things. Feel out what you’re drawn to. Don’t wait to be judged by others or be afraid of failing, just keep going.
When you do something you enjoy, and you’re good at it, then it’s not work, it’s play. So for the love of all things good and carb-free, PLAY. Play that hobby, play with fire, play guitar, play in the sunshine, passion play, play to learn, play that funky music white boy. Ok, maybe don’t play with fire, but do get out there and play with your talents. Find that spark (metaphorically speaking) that you had as a kid when you played. Play more. Explore and play.
Did you know that there are people in NYC who pay up to $1000 to go to adult preschool. It’s a thing. Crazy or genius? It’s a fine line sure, but what a great way to get in touch with your inner child and recapture that awe-like wonder about you know, arts ‘n’ crafts and nap time.
Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down
Did you know, in one of Fred Astaire’s first screen tests, an executive wrote, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little” and yet he went on to become a Hollywood legend, renowned for his singing and dancing ability in over 30 films.
And Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper gig after his editor told him he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas” and his first attempt at business left him bankrupt, but his perseverance in his dream has given generations the gift of entertainment in the form of films, music and theme parks, to name a few. No imagination??!! The gall.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected many times by publishers and now is not only “the best selling book series in history”, but went on to inspire the films of which the franchise has become a worldwide success.
And of course we all know the legend of Colonel Sanders who was rejected 1009 times before he finally sold his now famous Kentucky fried chicken recipe loved the world over, not to mention finding success in his more, ahem, mature years.
If these people had taken their rejections to heart, we may never have been swept up in the choreographic romance of Fred and Ginger, the fantasy worlds and lands of Disney or be introduced to the world of magic and wonder of Hogwarts and the world would certainly have been deprived the taste of ‘finger lickin’ good’ chicken from the Colonel.
There are many more examples of people who have become incredible successes after being rejected many times. It just goes to show that judgment is often just a matter of personal taste, not talent, so don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Find Your Strengths
Your strengths may not be obvious to you right now, and may require some serious soul-searching, but isn’t it worth the time to find out? Isn’t it worth the investment to improve on your strengths and do more of what you’re good at?
Not only will your life feel so much more enjoyable and you’ll be much happier in general, but you may even create or do something that changes the world or at least the lives of those around you. Maybe you pursuing your passions will inspire others and those that look up to you, to do the same.
So forget the fact that you don’t know how to change a tyre, type with all your fingers, bake a birthday cake that’s instagram-worthy, read music, build a birdhouse, do algebra, grow carrots or play chess. So, you won’t be the next Bobby Fischer. That’s ok. You’ll be the first [enter your name here].
You do you. And it’s never too late to be you. No one else is up for the job.
Recognise what you do well, focus on what you love to do and become an expert in that. ‘Play’ to your strengths. Do what sparks off excitement inside of you and don’t give up on it. Because as author and philosopher Howard Thurman would say, that’s what the world needs more of.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” – Howard Thurman