Today’s article is entitled “The Creative Monopoly.” It was written by David Brooks and published in the New York Times on April 23rd and can be found here.
This article talks about Peter Thiel, who founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook. In the article, Mr. Brooks explains that Peter Thiel was a highly successful student when he was younger, working his way through Stanford and Stanford Law School, only failing to meet his ambitions when he applied to be a Supreme Court clerk.
Mr. Brooks posits that this failure to succeed in one, traditional, competitive endeavor, led Thiel to think more creatively about what he might be able to accomplish in life. Obviously, as the founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel went on to become a highly successful businessman after overcoming that initial disappointment.
This opinion piece questions the value of societal pressures to pursue traditional professions encouraged by the US educational system and American culture. I like Mr. Brook’s hypothesis that we need more people to think outside the traditional “box” portrayed by most Universities in this country.
Students should be encouraged to think critically and creatively about their personal interests and how they would like to contribute to society, without feeling the need to bow to the immense pressure to conform to other’s expectations. And I agree that people who find a way to do this tend to be more successful and can make a significant contribution to society, sometimes in completely unexpected ways.
I do think, however, that the financial barriers are prohibitively high for most people to be able to even consider doing such a thing. How many of us could really denounce the traditional paths laid out for us throughout our education, to do something completely different and unique?
I admire the people in my life who have done this – the people in my high school who went on to become actors or to produce tv shows and movies or to conduct on Broadway. And one friend from my conservative college started his own gourmet peanut butter and jelly stand in a mall. It can take real courage to take a risk to do what truly inspires you. It is not the easy path. Sometimes I regret the fact that I have barely considered taking a risk like that. Do you?
Some Questions for Discussion: How do you think young people could be encouraged to think more about untraditional professions? How could we expose students to a wider variety of career paths? Do you feel that you were encouraged to walk away from traditional expectations and forge your own path? And did you learn any lessons from taking the path less travelled? Do you have any suggestions for people who are looking for financial support to pursue their dreams? Why do you think that people so easily give in to societal pressures when establishing their professional goals? Is there a role that parents or the government can play to help reduce the pressures to conform to traditional expectations? Are you a parent that has tried to expose your children to a number of different potential life paths? Do you have any suggestions for other parents trying to do the same?
What would you like to be or do if you could walk away from your current work? And do you think you will ever do that?
Please join the conversation. And thank so much for reading!