Taking Steps in Leadership–how do people think?

I have students of all sorts.  Academic, musical, adults, and children come to me for information.  Information is only one aspect of what they get from me.  What good is dispensing information if every time someone wants more information, he has to come to me to get it?  I want to enable them to get information for themselves.  I want to develop in them a sense of curiosity and resourcefulness that allows them to discover new areas of interest, to expand their horizons both outwardly and inwardly.  I want to allow them the choice of becoming whatever their hearts desire.  I would say nearly half of what I end up doing is UNDOING what they have done to themselves.

People have a tendency to label things.  This is good, that is bad, this is healthy, that is not, this is normal, that is not (and usually not normal is considered sub-normal). Many in the positions of power, namely teachers, bosses, parents, adults, experts, will assign a value to another human being and congratulate themselves that they have identified the short coming and have just the pill, or the behavior modification it will take to normalize this person.  What is the point of normalizing anything?  It is to make “them” more like “us”.  In some cases, that ensures the survival of the species or the group.

For instance…Running Water is a skilled hunter in the tribe.  Falling Rocks is not.  He makes loud noises, is unable to concentrate, and tends to fall down.  Running Water will not take Falling Rocks with him on hunting trips because his family group would starve.  Does he take Falling Rocks aside and teach him how to be quiet, how to concentrate, and how not to fall down?  YES!  What would happen if Running Water got attacked and killed by his prey because he had no back up?  What would happen if Running Water just got sick and couldn’t hunt?  Falling Rocks would be responsible for keeping his family group fed. This would be normalizing Falling Rocks as a hunter type.  On the other hand, is everyone in the tribe meant to be a hunter?  Of course not.  One is a builder, one is a medicine man, one is a cook, one is a strategist, one is an expert on weather… Does that mean Falling Rocks will be successful?  No.  Does that mean he’s a failure?  No.  It may mean that he’s more suited as a drummer or singer, as a builder, as a stand-up comedian.

Unfortunately, the goal of most is to normalize everyone into some grey nondescript character not unlike a cubical.  Where does creativity come in?  Where does imagination come in? Where does innate talent come in?  It makes EVERYONE a follower.  What I have found in my nearly 50 years of teaching is that once the label has been applied, it Never comes off.  If it starts curling at the edges, the person with the label, instead of ripping it off, actually tries to re-glue it!

One of my delightful students plays guitar.  Sometimes he starts hyperventilating because he doesn’t want to make a mistake.  I tell him to exhale then inhale slowly then exhale and continue.  He does well.  In fact, he has done 6+ months of work in 4 months.  He concentrates so well, and once he has learned something, it stays with him.  Unfortunately this has had some side effects.  Some fool once told him that his brain didn’t process things normally, and he has a condition of some sort.  Every once in a while, he says, “I’m sorry, my brain…”  It infuriates me.

So yesterday, I blew up.  “Who ever told you that your brain was not normal was an idiot!!!!  What kind of fool would look at what you have accomplished and said there was something wrong with how your brain worked?!!!  If you are gaining knowledge and wisdom and skills and retaining them, it doesn’t matter if it differs in method from someone else!!!  Albert Einstein didn’t talk until he was 4!  He was told he’d never amount to much because he wasn’t too bright!  How many people want to be as bright as Albert Einstein?  Everyone?  DON’T YOU EVER LET PEOPLE TELL YOU THAT YOUR BRAIN IS NOT RIGHT.  It is just not like theirs and thank God it isn’t!”  Well his mother was in tears.  The kid was smiling.  I firmly believe all I said.

My biggest task with this particular student is then to prove to him that his self image should be one of a person with a creative, relative mind.  He can relate things that are polar opposites and make sense of it.  He can use information from one discipline in a completely different discipline and get an amazing result.  What he learns in music is applied to English and Math.  What he learns in science is applied to personal relations.  Right now, he believes he is a person of diminished capacity that has special needs.  This is a long way from what he actually is.  I haven’t, as yet, seen any evidence of diminished capacity.  His “special needs” mean that his teachers have to be creative when they introduce new stuff.  Well crud!  The teachers I know do that anyway.

What does this have to do with how people in general think?  I have to do this process of eliminating self limiting thinking in EVERY student I teach.  People tend to accept the labels given them, and if the label is pleasant, they don’t want to change it.  If the label is unpleasant, they don’t want to change it.  What kind of sense is that?  Why would anyone accept a label they didn’t apply themselves?  I am a____________.  I do ___________.  I enjoy ___________.  How do you know any of those things when you’re 6?  You do…  I am a kid.  I do play.  I enjoy climbing trees!  And the next day it will change.  But when someone else labels you:  You are not paying attention long enough, you have ADHD.  You do silly, childish things like laughing inappropriately and disrupting class.  You do not enjoy sitting in class with your hands folded listening to the teacher lecture.  THEREFORE, you are not normal and need some sort of special class, some medicine and regular sessions with a therapist.  Which label should the child apply to himself?  Which one does he and his concerned parents apply?  That’s right, the one who least understands the individual comes up with the label and applies it on his forehead where it will remain the rest of his life.

My conclusion?  Most people do NOT think, they don’t know how.  They picture themselves as some expert has told them to.  They are the good twin and the evil twin, the teacher’s pet, the class clown, the athlete, the geek, the musician, the dunce, the poor boy, the Richie Rich, the ghetto kid, the black/Hispanic/Asian kid, the Muslim, the bible beater, the redneck, trailer trash, the yuppy, the lazy millenial, the boomer.  All our opinions and perspectives are colored by these labels.

Hi, I am Rebecca, and I don’t fit in any box, and neither do you.

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