I saw a bumper sticker recently that really spoke to me. It said “CRITICAL THINKING – The Other National Deficit.”
That brought me back to my days at New York University. In one of my liberal arts classes, I remember taking an essay exam that would greatly affect my grade for the semester. The essay question had an obvious answer that had been covered in class but because of the weight of the grade and the fact that the exam was only one question, I read it with new curiosity that sparked new thoughts and ideas on the matter. I remember getting very excited as I handed in my exam. I felt like my professor would read my answer and appreciate the original thought that went into my response. I assumed she wanted my take on the matter.
I assumed wrong.
When I got my paper back, it had a big “C+” on it with a note that said “This is not what I taught you in class.”
A couple of invaluable lessons I learned that day:
- Her “what I taught you in class” were memorized facts that she wanted regurgitated back to her. I had misunderstood and thought her intention was “to teach us to think for ourselves based on the facts we were given.” I was wrong.
- I’ll never forget the excitement running through my body of stumbling upon a new idea and formulating my own take on it. I felt so alive and wanted to do that again and again so I decided to make a living at that and become a songwriter. That way, I could put words and ideas together to create brand new worlds within the construct of a 3 minute song. What a fun challenge.
- The rejection of sharing my ideas and not having them received or heard made me realize the importance of “reading a room.” When people ask you for your thoughts, sometimes they don’t REALLY want to know what you think. They want you to just confirm what they already believe. When I meet someone who honestly DOES want to know what I think, it’s such a pleasure and always a much more interesting conversation. The dialogue goes both ways and we get to explore new ideas together. New ideas spur action and creativity.
I LIVE for this!