Maybe because I have spent a lot of years reading and studying…
It seems that the pressure is growing stronger by the day to make quick decisions, read many, many short items, and rush from task to task…
Maybe I am defensive. My formal education is in the “Humanities.” The Humanities is in the mode of “we better defend our existence” these days. At times, I envy those STEM folks. They learn tangible lessons; how to use math, how to code. I didn’t learn such tangible lessons. In fact, I never liked the classes I had to take in my graduate work in “statistics.” I should have – but I didn’t.
I remember especially one professor whose exams were open-ended essay questions. We had to write – a lot! And, though there were certain points we had to cover to make the grade, we really had to demonstrate that we had learned how to think about some pretty good and big questions and issues…
Anyway, I wonder if our modern educational path is leaving such behind, and that it might be hurting us in some way.
I thought of this as I read this article: “The Decline of the American Actor – Why the under-40 generation of American leading men is struggling—and what to do about it” by Terrence Rafferty from The Atlantic. He starts it this way:
Is it time for American actors to take a hard look in the mirror? Earlier this year Michael Douglas mused darkly to a magazine interviewer, “I think we have a little crisis going on amongst our young actors at this point,” and Spike Lee, commenting on the “invasion” of black British actors, had some pithy observations on the subject, too: “You want talented people,” he said, and British actors’ “training is very proper, whereas some of these other brothers and sisters, you know, they come in here, and they don’t got that training.” Douglas and Lee, just like the rest of us who go to the movies, are a tad puzzled about why so many good American roles have been going to English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Australian, and Canadian actors. The phenomenon may have reached its unignorable peak in last year’s docudrama Selma: the parts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Governor George Wallace, and President Lyndon B. Johnson were all played by Brits.
Read the full article. He basically makes the case that the modern young American actors (primarily the men) are skipping the needed steps (years of these steps) in training.
I thought of key business books I have read. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and his popularization of the 10,000 hour rule. And then, the needed “next read” to Outliers, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Mr. Colvin demonstrates that just any old 10,000 hours isn’t enough. It requires 10,000 hours of disciplined, deliberate practice – working on something for the purpose of getting better at it. (A careful reading of Gladwell would show that he fully agrees with this. In other words, 10,000 hours does not make you the best. But the right 10,000 hours gives you a decent shot at being really, really good!).
I think of one of my professional pursuits. I present synopses of business books. I guess in order to save folks time – so they can “learn quickly.” So, I feel a little guilty about this. I wish that we could just sit in silence, for quite a few hours, read the books, then talk about the key stories, the key lessons, and takeaways.
But, these days, the 15 minute version of the synopsis seems too long for some people. I’m now getting e-mails with fast-paced graphics about 4 minutes in length, promising to teach me the essence of a book in 4 minutes. My 15 minute version seems excrutiatingly slow to some people – so “yesterday.”
I remember a Mad Magazine graphic from my early years. It was a drawing of Grandma in her kitchen. Flour and sugar and pie crust are everywhere, including on her face, her apron, on the floor… She is pulling a beautiful cherry pie out of the oven. It looked delicious! But, her face was furious at the words coming over her kitchen radio. An announcer was promoting buying the latest frozen pie, to pop in the oven, and cook in just a short time. The tag line: “Better than Grandma could ever make.”
Learning takes time. There is no “pop in the oven for an hour and get all that you need” shortcut. Learning takes work, serious thinking, and lots of time devoted to the process.
I do realize that many jobs allow little such time for such learning work. But, I think that may be hurting us in ways that we can’t and don’t quite yet understand.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis