Sunday, August 5, 2012

Queer without fear

In his book The Element, Dr. Ken Robinson recounts a wonderful story about an eight-year-old girl, Gillian, who was having trouble in school: missing deadlines, testing poorly, and becoming easily distracted. This true story took place in the 1930s. School administers thought that Gillian had a problem and should be placed in a school for kids with learning disorders. Gillian’s parents took her to the school psychologist, who questioned Gillian’s mother for about twenty minutes, glancing at Gillian and making mental notes during the conversation. He then asked Gillian to remain in the office for a few minutes while he talked with her mother privately. Before he left the office, he turned on the radio. There was a window to the office, and he and Gillian’s mother watched the little girl from the hallway. “Gillian was on her feet, moving around the room to the music. The two adults stood watching quietly for a few minutes, transfixed by the girl’s grace. Anyone would have noticed there was something natural—even primal—about Gillian’s movements. At last, the psychologist turned to Gillian’s mother and said, ‘You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.’”

The little girl did attend dance school, the very next week. The little girl, Gillian Lynne, never lost her passion for dance. She entered the Royal Ballet School in London, met Andrew Lloyd Webber, and went on to create some of the most successful musical-theater productions in history, including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. “Gillian wasn’t a problem child. She didn’t need to go away to a special school. She just needed to be who she really was,” writes Robinson.

Robinson and other scientists who study the field of human potential agree that the most successful among us are those who pursued their passions, regardless of the paycheck. “They pursued them because they couldn’t imagine doing anything else with their lives,” says Robinson.

"Many people set aside their passions to pursue things they don’t care about for the sake of financial security. The fact is, though, that the job you took because it ‘pays the bills’ could easily move offshore in the coming decade. If you have never learned to think creatively and to explore your true capacity, what will you do then?”

Robinson believes in order to compete in the global knowledge economy, where creativity and innovation will be rewarded, we have to think differently about how we approach education and our own careers and business choices.