`Thank you for your response!’
I have quite obsessively checked the dashboard of my blog to spy on how many views I got. 85 on the first day – Wow! That was surely unexpected, but more imminently elevating! Then crash! bam! the next day it fell to 15 and then 4, then 2, and finally I had them ducks making me cry ‘ZERO’ with alarming disdain, self-pity, indifference, and then some renewed resolve. I had a tough time convincing myself that I am no Nicholas Kristof or Jug Suraiya or Chetan Bhagat even (my peeve with his writing I shall reserve for my other whiny blogspace), to be entitled to a dedicated daily following. Correction – Not Yet. Not when some four people demonstrated persistent interest a day ago, and helped me sustain the confidence that this is a model worth building upon.
Jest aside, I have honestly been thinking of what to write here for the past week amidst the frantic typing of code for my data analysis and cover-letters inviting potential bosses to see how we can together marry numbers and statistics to diseases and drugs. I even thought of something today, but I will save it up for a dry day when I have no other ideas.
So I made a last minute decision (err, not entirely like George Sampson’s turnabout that well, quite changed his life) to write about an issue quite close to my heart. If I had to type the keywords, they would be – schools, India, education, hobby, career, vocation, creativity, business, encourage, counseling. Quite a few there, but I guess they encapsulate quite well what I am about to think aloud in this space.
“Never let schooling get in the way of your education”.
I can quite imagine Mark Twain, in the way I have envisaged him to be, bellowing aloud these famous words that apparently have not quite been traced back to his genius directly. Nevertheless, in my life it has been firmly entrenched only of late, with the entry of an almost-better half, here on referred to as Sheraton.
When one hears this propaganda at the least of once every fortnight, the cochlear nerves are bound to respond and let the brain know that something ought to be done about this. I believe, that the idea had become tangible in conversations with my brother-in-law, then new to the family who pushed me to leave medical school right in the middle of the academic structure and pursue a better aerated, less stifling option. However, going further back into history, I credit the roots of this concept mostly to my sister, R, whose epigraph should really read “Padhke kisne kya paaya?” (literally translated as whoever benefited from schooling).
My blog – a business that schooling did not prepare me for.
I am here to sell my ideas for free, invite some criticism and failures, build upon my losses and capitalize on my gains, and refurbish my old ideas to more acceptable standards. (In the bargain, I hope to send down some pearls and marvels of wisdom 😉 ) Having said this, when I listen to Cameron Herold, I think, well I am an entrepreneur in a tweaked definition of the word. Writing and trying to make sense of this world is my business here, and that is exactly what I am trying to improve upon. Mark Twain and Cameron Herold together inspire me to write this post today, that I hope would help me fine tune my own ideas about how we see a link between the following keywords: kids, business, career, idea, money, dreams.
“Let’s raise our kids to be entrepreneurs”
Cameron Herold, a successful entrepreneur-teacher, talks about raising kids to be an entrepreneur in one of my favourite Ted talks. Every time I see the video, I nearly see my entrepreneur brother-in-law nodding his head in vigorous agreement. Herold was an academic dud. Worse, he ‘suffered’ from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Maybe, he was loitering around the hyperactive normal end of the continuum, and maybe he was lucky that he got the chance and guidance to help him channel his energy into something more fruitful. But there is no denying, that he learnt outside of school what he could never learn inside it – the art and science of business. His story resonates with that of the typical American kids I read about in encyclopedias – delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, and the like. His father was however more intelligent than the average. He did not just pass rewards as allowances. In fact he made the allowance an incentive for the kids to pick up the threads of entrepreneurship. How these incentives alerted young hyperactive inattentive Cameron’s minds to the nuances of business, negotiation, and innovation is what you will learn when you watch the video. I ask you to really devote sometime to this – the audience needs it more than the talk needs the audience.
I reflect on Herold’s story with awe and then a sense of wistfulness. As a kid, I had inherited quite a decent collection of story books and hordes of Amar Chitra Katha(s) and Tinkle(s) that I loved to share with my friends. In fact, the twist is that I would actually feel upset that my friends did not quite share my interest in the Secret Seven or Thumbelina and here I was wanting to discuss the nuances of the story with them. I devised upon a plan to get them interested. As little girls of the 80s and 90s did, we would also indulge in our fantasies of playing adults. “House House”, anyone? A more mature version of this act was to go out into the world and work. I used this design to weave my plan into it. Feigning boredom with playing doctor (portent!), I decided to play librarian for a change. In this disguise, I lured them into paying me Re 1 for every book they take and an absolute fine of 50 paise if they did not return it within one week. My business ran successfully with no real major glitches until one day I decided I had made enough money to redirect my business into philanthropy.
My altruism turned out to be a big flop. Really a big flop show. The moment I declared all lending to be made free, customers lost interest. I still remember being utterly confused and too proud/scared to tell my parents about what I had done and let it go. School soon caught up with us and the library became a forgotten story. Even today, some of those books have my writing pencilled on their first page – Re 1/-.
My experience is a brilliant story. Brilliant, because kids are way more intelligent than we give them credit for. It took some nerve on my part to devise a ‘business strategy’ and take a calculated risk with an unstable high-risk customer base – my play pals.( This phase kind of paralleled my father’s forays into small time business and I still see myself staring at him talking about it). It also took some guts and a decent insight for their age, for my friends to buy this service. They saw some utility in opening an account with the library, probably a sense of using this chance as a playground to test their sense of financial decisions. What fascinates me is the potential idea that they were not as appreciative of reading books for their sheer pleasure as much as the idea of being involved in adult-like transactions! Well, evidently they really took their play-adult fantasy seriously. We were just six or seven years old. Schooling had just begun. Education apparently had been around for quite sometime. Human trait for sustenance and survival was part of our genetic blueprint.
Kids have ideas that they would love to improve upon.
At a very young age, kids have a fair idea of what they possibly want. Definitely what makes them happy. As a kid, I was too shy to really go out and dance on a stage fearing two left feet. My foray into classical dance (Bharatanatyam) was some sort of a remedy to my issue, but soon lapsed when I decided that the ‘i-don’t-dance-like-the-non-geeks-do’ attitude was cooler. I was supposedly a good expressive dancer, but with my decided opposition to my pursuit, I subconsciously trained my feet to become two left feet. Today, I graciously accept a realization I had as a child; that dance is a form of self-expression. Dancing makes you shed your inhibitions and love yourself for the person you are. I am not a great dancer today, but I am not shy to get on stage and instruct my right foot to behave itself. That the broken left knee has sort of messed up my left foot, is well a different story!
Sometimes I’d like to meet my kiddie self, tell her off and ask her to remember for her future that life is really not about a profession as much as it is about doing what you love to do. Kids really are a miniature adult, and grasp nuances of life sooner than we expect them too. Just today, my brother-in-law was describing to me how the toddler nephew employs his father’s commanding tone to beckon his mom (my sister), and instead uses his older sister’s softer mellower pleasing tone while calling out to his father! My nephew isn’t even as old as 18 months, yet he exemplifies the capacity of the infant human brain to grow at an exponential rate. So our education really begins with our birth and truly has nothing to do with our schooling, it seems.
Why are schools not so intuitively connected to entrepreneurial skills as other conservative academic avenues?
Cameron Herold talks about how he blossomed in his business ventures, going onto teach a course for budding and seasoned entrepreneurs. Yet sardonically, he was allowed to plant his roses only when he was freed from the clutches of school. He left school prematurely and never returned to complete it. On the other hand, his lack of academic prowess never once seemed to tailgate his blaze of success!
Not that I discredit schooling. It is important and helps us build a nature of perseverance, comprehension, and skills to help us in dire situations like examinations! But, I argue that schooling cannot be the determination of our caliber. Yes, I know this is not a new idea, but the fact that it needs repetition is proof that it remains just an idea. What if we introduce the idea of entrepreneurship to children at an early age and emphasize that anything they love doing and want to popularize is really entrepreneurship? How many children would resist the idea of using the arts & crafts class to create something of value? Would children not take up the challenge of writing scripts and producing the act to convey a message as simple as ‘cutting nails’? I am so unimaginative myself, that I can’t think of ideas that young boys and girls would take up; yet, I am willing to wager if the concept of entrepreneurship is conveyed to them in a more creative package than calling it an MBA, someone like my kiddie self would really take up her lending library seriously. Or possibly, a kid learning ballet would go back to school and teach her friends some of what she learnt in exchange for a remixed version of her favorite song!
Human race has only progressed with the free exchange of new ideas. Only the exchange brings in change.
Once again, I admit I am chanting a now popular mantra of change. But I only hope, I am able to impress upon you and convince you that we actually have our solutions in front of us. As the generation in charge, we just need to push the ivy aside to discover the league of commonality that was always there. And have the courage to send our kids down that road.
- This is where Wiki-quotes claims the uncertainty affixed to the origin of the famous line “Never let schooling get in the way of your education”. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mark_Twain
Wiki-quote has paraphrased it as “Never let schooling interfere with your education”. I somehow find the phrase ‘get in the way’ more romantic and chose poetic license in a land fraught with indecision anyway!
- Click on this link to access my favorite talk by Cameron Herold –http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/cameron_herold_let_s_raise_kids_to_be_entrepreneurs.html
Keep sending your comments.