A few months ago, my daughter and I were in Ireland. She and I were there exploring for several weeks. Here for work, and for play.
Long story short, she has a friend over here who invited her to come for a few weeks.
I go to Europe every chance I get. Born and raised there, it feels like home. I suppose in many ways, it is. I am still a British citizen. Still carry a British passport. Most of my childhood memories are from Europe.
But, this post is about to take a weird twist.
I am not going to post a bunch of pictures of Ireland, and I am not about to tell you about how great this trip was.
Instead, I am going to talk about something else.
While my daughter and I were in Ireland, I listened to an audiobook. It’s one of the most encouraging books I have listened to in a long time.
The book is, Late bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, by Rich Karlgaard.
For a quick summary, here’s a TEDx talk the author gave a few years ago:
This topic is intriguing to me.
I am an educator. For over twenty years, I have participated in the modern conveyor-belt, one-size fits all educational system.
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t work. The system is broken. We all know it is.
But, with everyone participating, it’s hard to get off the conveyor-belt. In fact, it’s actually really hard to resist the temptation to climb onto the conveyor-belt. After all, everyone else is up there. There must be something to it.
Unfortunately, the damage that happens on the conveyor-belt is real.
I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve seen kids take the SAT and ACT tests and do well. They really do not resist the urge to wear their scores on their sleeves. Not to put too fine a point on it… kids like to boast about their scores.
On the flip side, I’ve seen kids take the same tests and do poorly. I’ve seen the self-esteem of those kids plummet after receiving their scores. They feel stupid. They feel worthless. Deflated.
Of course, no one ever asks… “Um… Where did this test come from?” It isn’t hard to find out. Google it. Start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Binet
Then, go here for the really fun stuff: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Terman
Here’s a quote from Lewis Terman, the inventor of the SAT: “
It is safe to predict that in the near future intelligence tests will bring tens of thousands of these high-grade defectives [ humans] under surveillance and protection of society. This will ultimately result in curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism, and industrial inefficiency.”
Interesting stuff. Eugenics. Racism. You know… fun stuff. I may write about that some other time.
But, back to happier thoughts.
In his book, Late bloomers, Richard Karlgaard points out that we are doing our children a great disservice by testing them ad nauseam, and by pushing them academically. He says that we have become obsessed with early achievement. We are expecting them to know what they are going to do with their lives while they are still teenagers. And, we are expecting them to make decisions accordingly.
But, the author points out, we’ve got it all wrong. Some people just don’t bloom until later in life. He didn’t. He slacked his way through high school and college only to become a successful author later.
I didn’t. I slacked my way through high school and college only to become a successful educator later. Compass Classroom and I launched Visual Latin while I was in my late thirties, and I launched this website in my forties. Now, I am considering starting other businesses as I approach my fifties.
But, my current favorite example is a man I met in Ireland.
Stephen, in Carlingford, Ireland, runs a cafe and an AirBnb right in the Medieval downtown section of town. Seriously, look at this view from the street:
Off in the distance, beyond the DNG sign, is the original medieval city gate. Part of the old city wall still stands on the other side of the gate.
Anyway, Stephen runs the Liberty Cafe on the left, and above it, he rents out a few rooms on AirBnb. If you ever come to Carlingford, you can rent his rooms. Just click here: https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/13545198?source_impression_id=p3_1560375375_jUM1TpAvcGHLsNT4
(And, if you are not yet an AirBnb user, sign up here to get $55 off your first stay: https://www.airbnb.ie/c/dwanet15?currency=USD)
Back to Stephen. When I first contacted him about a room for my daughter and I, he responded faster than any AirBnb host I had ever contacted.
My daughter and I arrived in Carlingford after a pretty long day. We arrived late and tired. Stephen met us with a smile and more cheer than you would expect that late at night.
The next day, we ate an excellent Irish breakfast (included in the stay) at the Liberty Cafe downstairs. I started up a conversation with Stephen. I wondered how long he had been running the cafe, and how long he had been involved in AirBnb. The cafe was too busy for a conversation so Stephen agreed to meet me after.
Stephen, it turns out, is another late-bloomer. After another career completely, after an epic battle with cancer, and after running out of money completely (I’ve done that before), he started this cafe and AirBnb…. at 57 years old! I find that tremendously inspiring.
On the conveyer-belt, we are taught to go to school, go to college, pick a career, work until age 65, and quit. And, then what? No one really knows.
As Stephen said to me during our conversation, “That’s rubbish. You can do anything if you see it and believe it.”
He’s right, you know? You can even start a new business at age 57. And… you can love it. Stephen does.
We should pass stories like this on to our children. Especially American children. We panic because they aren’t doing well in high-school. We panic because they aren’t ready for the SAT. We panic because they aren’t ready for the ACT. We panic because they aren’t ready for college.
We really should just stop panicking. We should stop worrying. Turns out, Guns ‘n Roses was right. All we need is a little patience.
Cut your kids some slack. Let them be kids. They’ll be alright.
Don’t believe me? Come to Carlingford, Ireland. Watch Stephen work in his restaurant. He is clearly having a good time and he just seems… happy.
Good thing he didn’t listen to all that early achievement nonsense.