A New Look at Stay Out Of School

 

What Do You Know?

A few years ago I was watching the Sundance Channel’s program “Iconoclasts: Bill Maher & Clive Davis.” It’s safe to say I’m fairly obsessed with understanding how and why successful, brilliant people do what they do, so this show is perfect for me. I don’t care if they’re classifying rocks or writing rock music: if they do it well in the here and now, I want to know how and why. I’m fascinated when people divulge their values and what sets their internal compasses.

You might consider me a smart people voyeur. I’m into it. 

If you’re not familiar with “Iconoclasts,” the sole purpose of the show is to bring together two people in wildly different fields with similar levels of success just to see what happens when they’re in the same room together. In this particular episode, just as Bill Maher of “Real Time” is about to meet Clive Davis, the Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment Worldwide, Maher remarks to the camera:

“You know what the most valuable thing is at this point in my life? 
Information. 
Who can give you something you don’t know?”   

And like that, it hit me: he too is fixated on understanding how successful, brilliant people do what they do.

The biggest experts among us are always wondering, “What do you know that I don’t know? What can I learn from you and how can I put it to use?”

If you're here, you're probably a smart person voyeur, too. 

You like to figure out the best ways to do new things, and you admire people who strike out on their own in somewhat unorthodox ways. These are people who unearth new methods and techniques--potters with new glazes and bartenders with new (or even old!) preparations, artists with fresh takes on discipline and technologists with comments on old wisdom. 

This is about sussing out quality and how we each get there.

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

 

Stay Out Of School is about the whole host of topics and attitudes that inform the conversations about the drive to be incredible at something, and, as complements to that, what it takes to learn, think, explore, and communicate effectively. 

It’s also about rooting out the whys and hows of what really matters and brings meaning to the experience of being human.

Why Is It Called Stay OUT Of School? 

In his 1997 book True and False, playwrite David Mamet warns young actors not to go to graduate school for acting, lest it ruin their craft and authenticity as artists. Reading this as a young actress circa 2002, I was alarmed, but not surprised.

I knew in my gut that staying out of school was arguably good advice, and that troubled me. 

What had become of schools that they were worse for artists, creatives, and thinkers than simply studying out in the culture and society? What did that say about schools, and worse, where did that leave me, knowing that our culture didn't reflect the sort of insight and critical thinking I knew were integral to my own creative practice? 

The Confusion of Purpose was Still Haunting me A Decade Later

For years I’d felt like the head of a house divided: on one side, I’m this test prep expert and author, running a global tutoring company, preparing students all over the world for their college admissions exams with a whole team of tutors privately mentoring teenagers.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but reeking of nerdiness, uptightness, and Scantron sheets is not my bag, 

...so I tried to keep the company website and serious study culture as far away from my personal identity as possible.

On the other side, I’m an artist, writer, and yogi who spends her days thinking about philosophy, creativity, and discipline, considering what makes the the world a place worth living and all the reasons we as people do what we do.

I’m not too shy to tell you that a lot of what goes on here is the result of quality time jawing under umbrellas or huddled in hotel bars with people I just personally find interesting.

Not being a neuroscientist or sociologist, I’m most comfortable with the sort of research that can primarily be conducted in a bikini with a Kir Royale in hand or tucked into a selection of sashimi. 

That, frankly, is a little crass, and it took me a long while to accept and reveal that that's how things roll in my life. By owning that, hopefully things here will be far more cozy. 

If that works, it's worth it. 

By writing this, I mean to offer a new look at what my writing and Stay Out of School are all about and a commitment to myself and to you to bring you more of it. 

I'm inviting you in.

This is about the beauty of the aha moment (what Richard Feynman called “the pleasure of finding things out”), the beautiful human connectedness we can experience from sharing those aha moments, our search for more meaningful lives, and the stark reality of the challenging, disciplined nature of a life built for more of those experiences. 

Welcome to the new Stay Out Of School. 

New posts begin the first week of August, 2014. Please add yourself to the mailing list. 

If you’re not already familiar with the labor of love that is Stay Out of School, check out the featured posts in the slider or sidebar here to get you going--and join the conversation. 

 

Cheers!

Elizabeth KingComment