Mike Rowe: “What if I am completely wrong?”

After a long hiatus from this blog, I have decided, once again, to reinvigorate my efforts and bring the musings generally confined to my brain to life in form of words. I find this activity very helpful in framing my perspectives and how I want to proceed in my professional activities. I hope you find my thoughts engaging and helpful in your development not only as a professional, but also as a human. I do realize the enormity of what I just tasked myself in the last statement. Well…who cares…reach for the stars…why not!

I am ashamed that the 2008 TED video above has just come to my attention. As a long time follower of the TED series and Mike Rowe, I find this talk one of the seminal pieces of thought that I have stumbled upon. After I watched this video, I found myself saying time and time again, “What if I got it wrong? What if my perceptions of the current situation are completely misinformed? What if I am more wrong now than I ever have been? What if I am a living example of peripeteia? What if I am supposed to travel down the road that no one else is going?”

The underlying message to be internalized is that anyone and I mean anyone can enlighten you at any point and any day of your life to another peripeteia. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be individuals riddled with advanced degrees, letters of all varieties after their name, or an organizationally important title on their business card. It literally can be the man or woman picking up your trash, pouring your coffee, fertilizing you lawn, building the interstate, or even one of your parents who may have never earned a single day’s pay check at any point in their life. It doesn’t matter the source, it is all about the opportunity to learn from an experience.

As a person who regularly travels across the country meeting people from all walks of life, dropped into different situations daily, and is consistently confronted with opposing viewpoints, I need to reframe my assumptions, stereotypes, and conclusions as the norm and not the exception. I have found myself valuing the stranger on the plane telling a story sitting in the seat next to me, the custodian who greats me at the door of my next school, or the random, but so inspiring story of the tradesperson who enters my house to fix a broken appliance. In the spirit of Rowe’s story, I ask myself do I welcome these stories like I should? Do I truly internalize and bring meaning to them like I should?

I am not suggesting that my or even your day be about engaging in random conversations that keep all productivity from existing. Teachers are often confronted with this exact paradigm in the form of the “teachable moment”. If you are unaware of that term, it is the moment where the lesson plan gets tossed and the curiosity of the students to take a specific learning direction is prioritized. This is a resulting activity that happens in only highly functioning classrooms. I say this because the teachable moment happens only when students are intrigued enough to ask a leading question and when the teacher is aware enough to let the learning happen at all costs regardless of the intended “plan”. It is the confidence to know that deviations from the intended plan can be the best moments ever for a student. It is the confidence to know that what we know to be correct at this very second should live just that long…one second. It is the confidence that we should never consider the moments presented to us in life as finite or closed to an opportunity to grow in thought. It is the confidence to prioritize the desire to learn over the content or source.

Steve Jobs said that good artists borrow and that great artists steal without guilt. Mike Rowe stated in his above talk that “innovation without imitation is a complete waste of time”. How can we as professionals afford to limit our potential inputs? How can we if we limit where information or inspiration may originate? Do we seek out the conversation or the person? Do we travel by many in our life who could be the most authentic source simply because we have stereotyped or been misinformed?

I am committing to asking these questions to myself at every point I can and at any point I feel my mind closing and my stubbornness taking precedence. I will assume I am getting it wrong until I have been proven correct. I will seek value out of all interactions until proven differently.

Thank you, Mike Rowe for the reinvigoration of what ALL people can provide our society…a new, more informed perspective.

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