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Seth Godin is an ideas man
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Seth Godin is an ideas man
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Seth Godin is an ideas man
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"The people who aren’t willing to put themselves on the line have already announced they are failing."
Conversations
15 January 2015

Seth Godin is an ideas man

Interview by Daniel Teitelbaum
Photography by Tony Trichanh

Daniel Teitelbaum on Seth Godin

Seth Godin thinks that mainstream schooling teaches our kids to be uninteresting. A product of industrialism, the education system was invented to train people to be willing to work in the factory; to behave, fit in and comply. But in the Information Age—where the technological barriers to spreading ideas have all but disappeared—breaking the mold, not fitting in, is the key to success. Knowing what gets people’s attention, is more than useful; it’s powerful.

With more than a million people reading his blog everyday, Seth understands what it means to be interesting. He has written 17 books about the way ideas spread and how education can be revolutionised to serve its students and society better. He is also a successful (and unsuccessful) entrepreneur. From a magazine stand to a travel agency, Seth has started businesses that have failed. Lots of them. He has sold businesses like Yoyodyn (an internet-based direct marketing tool) and founded new ones, most notably Squidoo: a community website platform that allows users to create pages for subjects which interest them.

All of these pursuits have stemmed from Seth’s philosophy that in the connected world, cultivating the courage to explore our interests in the public space is an important step towards a more meaningful existence. Sharing our questions begin important conversations about who we are and where we are going. Conversations shape the way we think, and the way we think changes the world.

Well known for talking about how ideas spread, Seth rarely talks about which ideas he believes are worth spreading. So when we met over a Skype connection between my bedroom in Melbourne and his office in New York, I asked Seth about his own beliefs.

This story originally ran in issue #40 of Dumbo Feather

DANIEL TEITELBAUM: You talk about what it takes for an idea to engage people, and why some spread. Are you agnostic about which ideas are worth spreading?

SETH GODIN: Well I would hope that every caring individual has an agenda about the ideas they wish would spread. I wish the ideas that elevated our conversations, that made us our better selves, that helped preserve our environment for our grandchildren, were the ideas that spread. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

Right—well I’d really like to know a bit more about you, and the ideas you believe should spread.

Yes, that’s my least favourite thing to talk about.

[Laughs].

I’m happy to do that a bit, but the problem is that as soon as one’s personal agenda is at the centre of a conversation, it’s very difficult to distinguish between the obligation to do work that matters, and a point of view. People are often looking for a reason to say, “Well sure, it works for you…” A lot of people would like to believe that you need to be gifted in order to do work that changes people. I will be the first to admit you need to be gifted to play the piano at a concert setting. But

This story originally ran in issue #40 of Dumbo Feather

This story originally ran in issue #40 of Dumbo Feather

it’s not clear to me, at all, that you need to be born in a certain place, or gifted in a certain way, to do work worth doing.

So do you think that people look to you as somebody who’s doing great things and say, “Well that’s not for me, because he’s obviously had the right circumstances lead him to that”?

People always look for excuses. My favourite one is, “Well that’s easy for you because you have a really popular blog.” As if my really popular blog was something I won in the lottery. I had a really unpopular blog for three years in a row where 10 or 20 people a day were reading it. When I got started in the book business, I received 900 rejection letters. So you can’t look at the end result—at the Richard Bransons or the Maria Popovas—and say, ‘Well they have that thing and I don’t.’

They got that thing by showing up. I am really focused on helping people understand that not showing up is a failure of will more than it is a failure of birth.

Why do you think people don’t show up?

Well it’s really culturally and evolutionarily frightening to say, “I made this.” We did not build schools that raise kids by teaching them that they should solve interesting problems and lead. Instead, we created an environment where you are told what to do, to fit in. We’re taught that we need way more followers than we need leaders. So from the time you’re four, you’re reminded that the safest, easiest, most reliable thing to do is to keep your head down.

On top of that, if you look at cortisol levels and the way the brain works, it’s not an accident that we, like most mammals, evolved to want to be in the middle of the pack. The people on the edges of the pack are the ones who get eaten by saber-tooth tigers.

So when we are confronted with an opportunity, it often feels like a risk. We’re given the chance to say, “Here, I made this” and instead we say, “How can I get this over with and go back to my day?”

For 50,000 years, fitting in and working hard was the way. But now we’ve created this new economy, where the people who are benefiting are the ones who we decide we can’t live without. If your idea spreads, you win, because when people know your idea, they trust you, and when they trust you they’re more likely to connect. We live in a connection economy now, not in an industrial economy.

So people now need to be brave—is that a virtue we need to cultivate?

Yeah bravery’s an interesting term. Because usually, that word is associated with Robin Hood and people on horseback—where you are risking mortal wounds. In fact, all you’re risking is that someone in the crowd won’t get you. All you’re risking is a one-star review on Amazon. All you’re risking is that someone will say, ‘He’s not as smart as I thought he was.’ Mostly, people are experiencing failure in advance. That’s my definition of anxiety.

When you’re imagining all the things that could go wrong before you even bring the work into the world, you are not only punishing yourself but you’re sabotaging the work.

How do we help people move away from anxiety?

My thesis is that we used to get paid to dig holes, carry objects, do physical work. At the end of the day, if you were tired, you didn’t whine and complain about the fact that you were tired, because that that’s what you were getting paid for. Being tired was your job. Now, many of us are paid for emotional labour; the labour of doing something you don’t feel like doing. If at the end of the day, you say, ‘I’m worn out because the work I did today was frightening,’ why are you surprised? That’s what you were paid for. Once we can understand that this feeling of “it might not work” is the signal that we are doing the job we are supposed to do, we don’t have to run away from it, we can embrace it.

So it’s just a shift in mindset; appreciating what we’re here to do?

You put the word “just” in front of it, but I think it’s the hardest work many people will do in their entire life. I think that rewiring our cultural perceptions, rewiring what we think our parents are hoping for us, is extraordinarily difficult work. Which is why so few people have figured out how to do it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Are there any people changing that?

A lot of my colleagues and the people I look up to have devoted their life to this. Sir Ken Robinson—who’s done one of the most popular TED talks ever—if you watch his talk in light of what I just said, you’ll see that that’s exactly what he’s doing. If you look at open platforms, these exist so that people, in a safe way, can experience the joy of sharing an idea that they believe in. Dean Kamen, the guy who invented the Segway, is a brilliant inventor. One of his biggest projects— which people don’t realise he’s associated with—is called “First.” First is an engineering competition, in which nerds in high school build robots that go into an arena and try to destroy each other.

[Laughs] there’s a television show like that.

Yeah. And 80,000 people came to the finals in Houston a couple of years ago. Once you understand that what you can do in high school is originate, design and build a killer robot instead of joining the football team, a transformation happens in your head. Most people’s football careers peak in high school, but your killer-robot-building career doesn’t have to peak until you’re in your seventies.

In reading your manifesto, I found myself nodding the whole time. I agree there needs to be a revolution. But what I’m struggling with is how ingrained the system is, how it perpetuates itself because the only people allowed to change it are those who have come through it, and those who have come through it drank the Kool-Aid. So how do we break it?

Well, I’m going to challenge one thing you just said, which is that the only people who are allowed to change it are the people who have been through it. The thing is, it’s a wide-open opportunity. Anyone is allowed. If I think about the Khan Academy, we see somebody with no authority, who came from completely outside the system, building an online community, a network that has changed the education of millions of people already.

When I started in the book business 30 years ago, you mailed the five-page proposal to someone in New York who decided if you were going to be allowed to write a book. Now you write a book, you make it a PDF and you share it. If 10 people send it to 10 people, send it to 10 people, the next thing you know you’re on your way to a million people reading your book. We don’t have the cop-out available, that “we are not allowed” to change this. What we do have is the ability to realise that the current system is entrenched and it’s not going to change easily. But that doesn’t keep us from building new systems right next to it.

Right, so that’s the way? To build alternatives rather than to change what’s already there?

I think that’s the way everything has changed throughout history.

The car wasn’t something that Karl Benz brought to the horse and carriage association and got them to incorporate in their standards. He just broke the system by inventing a new system right next to it.

Email—in every country that I am aware of—had nothing to do with the postal authorities. In retrospect you say, “Well that would have been logical to have the post office authenticate email accounts,” et cetera, but it never would have happened.

I actually just got a letter the other day from Australia Post saying they’re now creating an online post box, as though they’ve just invented something!

[Laughs] that’s pretty funny.

But what do parents do? You’ve got to send your kids to school; it’s the law in Australia. And if they go, they’re going to go to a school that’s going to teach them the old system.

I think we want to send our kids to school, not just have to, because the cultural acclamation and connection is vital. Going off the grid, never interacting with the people, isn’t, I think, a sensible way to develop community. What some have chosen to do is you send their kids to school during the day and home-school them at night. So your 10-year-old is busy editing Wikipedia and your 11-year-old is publishing her poetry online, and your 12-year-old is making stop-motion photography, and your 13-year-old is building a network of fellow travellers all around the world. And by the time your kids are 14, they have failed countless times. They have connected with other people, they’ve contributed, they’ve volunteered to run their local habitat. They’ve discovered what it is to lead, what it is to solve interesting problems, despite the fact that they go to school, not because of it.

Most people who have a privileged background—I’m not talking about people that are making three dollars a day—go to their middle-class job, they work all day to make enough money so they can go home and watch TV for four, or five, or six hours a night. That’s just the numbers. That’s ridiculous. We need to turn off the television, move to a smaller house if necessary, buy a used smaller car and take the money to buy free time to raise our kids.

This model that says, “I have to go to work all the time so I can save enough money so my kids can go to work all the time so that they can have enough money so their kids can work all the time.” Where did that deal come from?

I guess people experience status anxiety.

Yeah. Which is built into the culture, on purpose. The average person 125 years ago in Australia and the United States owned two pairs of shoes and two pairs of pants. One of the challenges of the industrial revolution of the early 1900s was that industrialists were petrified that the new machines that they were installing would make stuff faster than people could buy it. They were really sure that there was going to be a demand problem. Let’s say you can figure out how to make 500 pairs of shoes a day, instead of five, you say, ‘But everyone already has shoes! If I make a hundred times as many shoes a day, who will buy them?’ What they had to do was sell us discontent; you are not happy if you don’t have as many shoes as someone else. You need another T-shirt, you need a new garden set, you need a better this, or a better that. This discontent fuels demand, and demand is met by industrialists. Discontent is not inherent—it is merely inherent in the Western world, with money to spend on stuff that’s getting advertised to you.

Marketing was built right next to mass-production. They call it mass marketing for a reason. Mass marketers got money and approval because they could take what mass producers made, and market it to the masses. The only reason we have magazines and television is because we needed places to put advertising. The internet is the first mass medium in 75 years that was not invented to make advertisers happy.

I want to go back a little bit, to where you get your inspiration for your ideas, your influences.

Just about everyone has ideas. Very few people wake up in the morning with talker’s block. But when you put a piece of paper in front of them and say “write it down and own it” writer’s block kicks in.

I give talks fairly often, and at the end of the talk, we’ll ask, “Any questions?” There’s 1000 people in the audience, and no one raises their hand. Do we really believe that of the 1000 people, no one has a question? I mean you’re very talented, we’ve been talking for half an hour, you’ve already had 20 questions!

[Laughs].

We don’t raise our hand because the act of raising our hand is petrifying. I have made a practice of noticing things. I was at the Blue Note Jazz Club two nights ago and I noticed a woman, sitting four feet from Christian McBride, the musician—she wasn’t clapping, she wasn’t making eye-contact, she wasn’t engaged in the music, she was just looking at her watch; couldn’t wait to leave. I made a connection about what it is to be a musician in front of someone who’s not there to hear you, and I wrote it down. A million people will read it on my blog today, because I noticed something. That’s what I do for a living. I notice things. I think all of us have the same inputs, the question is: Do we choose to notice things and do we choose to write them down?

For 50,000 years, fitting in and working hard was the way. But now we’ve created this new economy, where the people who are benefiting are the ones who we decide we can’t live without.

So what does your day look like?

Well I set out 25 years ago to make it so I don’t have an average day. I don’t go to meetings or have a television, so I have time. I will some days write 20 or 30 pages and some days, write zero. I will find myself at the end of a 100-click-spree online and feel like I wasted an enormous amount of time, but then a few minutes later, something will come to me. I am also the chairman of Squidoo, an online sharing site. We just launched a new division and I spend three or four hours a day working on that; thinking about how to make that work better. There are friends and people I admire, who I consult and coach. When I get really stuck, I’ll invent an internship program or a school or a new project, post it on my blog and people will apply and show up at my office. The things I do are about creating an environment where I am colliding with things I don’t understand and trying to figure them out.

What’s something that you’re still struggling to figure out?

I don’t think anyone has done a good job of figuring out why certain ideas spread better than others. People can’t look at a video and say “that will go viral” or “that won’t.” There’s a lot to understand about the complexity of our culture. I am also really fascinated and concerned about how good marketing has become at getting people to act against their best interests. I would like to figure out antidotes for that, to help people come back to their senses. When you see people doing long-term damage to themselves and to their family by the choices they make—that is almost entirely the result of marketing taking advantage of cultural glitches.

What are some examples of that?

Well you see somebody who lives in a community where there’s toxic waste and their family is already sick, and they are arguing that there needs to be toxic waste because that’s where good jobs come from. Or you see somebody who is 23 and unemployed, who hasn’t read a book for fun in their entire life, who sits down to spend two hours playing a video game instead because it’s easier and they’re they can’t back themselves into learning something new. Or you see the obesity crisis that’s spreading around the world, where it doesn’t matter that the facts are clear, that it is more dangerous than smoking to be that fat. What is clear is that in that moment, it is irresistible to someone to make a bad choice about what they eat, because marketers, combined with culture, combined with physiology, have made it irresistible.

What for you is the scariest thing about the future and these things?

Almost everything ends with a whimper, not a bang.

I grew up in the Cold War, and a lot of smart people thought we were going to blow up the whole planet. I’m glad they were wrong. But that was a really close call. I think that the whimper that we are facing is almost certainly going to be the melting of the icecaps, the rising sea level. I think that an enormous number of people influenced by very powerful wealthy fuel and energy interests believe that it’s no big deal. I think it’s going to be a big deal faster than most people realise.

Would you say you’re pessimistic or optimistic?

I know that there’s a long history of human beings doing their best work when they feel backed into a corner. The question that’s unknown to me is: How long before people feel they’re backed into a corner, and will we have enough time to do our best work if we are?

Do you see yourself as playing some role in that?

I made a marketing contribution five or 10 years ago that didn’t catch on, but I may have to revisit it, which is:

we need to stop calling it “global warming” and start calling it “atmosphere cancer.” Because that’s what it is. Cancer’s one of the greatest brands of all time. We have a chronic degenerative disease that is scientifically based.

“Atmosphere” is a scientific word and “warming” is a happy word. There are very few cancer-deniers in the world. If you walk up to someone and say, “I have cancer” they don’t say, “I don’t believe in cancer. Cancer is a hyped-up plot.” You would punch them in the face! Right?

Yes, you would!

So I think we need to have the same intolerance for people who say they don’t believe in what the scientific method has really clearly delineated.

We have cancer. The question is: What should we do about it? Not: Should we argue about whether we have it or not?

I completely agree. Where are you leading your tribe?

Well the idea of it being “my” tribe is a bit of a challenge. I don’t think it is. This tribe of connected, synchronised people, who share ideas and missions is one that I contribute to, but lots of other people do as well. I show up in a lot of different places, in terms of where my ideas are being discussed, and in many cases, they don’t have an enormous amount in common other than the desire to test the status quo and to explore work that matters. But other people are doing that as well. I’m one of many coal-delivery guys throwing coal into the furnace, helping that move forward.

In the past I’ve started online communities, and I’ve found I’m just not that good at it. I don’t want to spend a lot of time saying, “Do this, follow me.” I’m more comfortable saying, “Pick yourself what’s important to you.” It’s very tempting, both professionally and from an ego point of view, to say, “You are my tribe, let’s go do this,” but that’s not who I am.

So this idea of people doing things that are meaningful to them—I feel often that we’re speaking to the group of people who kind of get it, or are very close to getting it. I’m struggling with how this idea can be mainstreamed.

I would beg you to not struggle, to understand that it takes 20, 50, 100, 500 years to mainstream a significant cultural shift. Mainstreaming isn’t the goal. The goal is 10, by 10, by 10. We get so hung up on mass—because that’s our culture, that’s our history. But it turns out mass has not built a major new initiative in 20 years. If you look at the list of important brands and important shifts that have shown up—Airbnb, Facebook, Zipcar, TED, Kickstarter, Instagram, Kindle, PayPal—all of them happened because one person brought one person. If you look at a business like Airbnb, which is the biggest hotel chain in the world, with more than 600,000 beds at last count, almost no one you know has ever stayed in an Airbnb, and yet they’re changing everything. If they said, “We have to be as important and as known as Hilton before we start,” there’d be no Airbnb. These things happen person to person, not from the top down.

In Stop Stealing Dreams, you talk about the importance of people finding mentors. I was thinking about this from a philosophical perspective— Aristotle said that the important thing to do morally is to cultivate good virtues, and the only way to do that is to spend time with people who have the virtues you think are worth cultivating. Who are your mentors?

I wrote a blog post called “Mentors and Heroes” and I think the distinction is important. Mentors are almost impossible to find because it is a really asymmetrical relationship. It doesn’t scale. What really scales, are heroes. I’ve had many heroes. Heroes that are either known or obscure, people who have written books, people who have lived life. If you think about Patrick McGoohan—the guy who wrote and produced The Prisoner TV show—he made a whole bunch of choices about content that were against his financial interests. That rubbed his backers the wrong way. But he created a 17-volume bit of art that resonates 50 years later. So there’s a hero.

The people who inspire me the most, though, are people who almost no one has ever heard of, who are without unlimited resources and without unlimited confidence doing work that they believe in. Starting a little granola company, starting a little church, starting a little movement within their community, building houses.

I was watching a talk recently that compared the plot lines of well- known myths and in those myths there was always a hero chosen by somebody else. They were given permission and told, “You’re the one who has to lead,” rather than it coming from internally. I think it’s interesting—people have to find the way to do it themselves.

King Arthur and Star Wars both let us off the hook. Right? It’s someone else’s job. We’ve invented these myths for a reason, by people who had power as a way of telling everybody else, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got it, just do what you’re told.’ When you see someone who hasn’t been ordained by anyone saying, “Follow me,” I find that heroic.

What was your school experience like?

I was the obnoxious-outspoken-bullied-nerdy kid. I joined a lot of clubs and stuff, but didn’t have a lot of friends. I had incredible parents who pushed my sisters and me to lead and to be as generous as we could be, but put very little pressure on us to be popular, be on the sports team, et cetera. They really pushed us to be out in the world. To explore a city we’d never been to before by ourselves at the age of 14 kind of stuff.

Wow, that’s amazing.

Yeah. When I got to college, I shifted gears a little bit, but I ended up co-founding a business there that grew to 400 employees. That’s where I learned the knack of starting stuff. We started 15 different divisions in a six-month period of time. Ticket bureau, snack bar, travel agency, magazine stand, a little business that did on-campus concert promotion. I had nothing to lose. I got hooked on that idea that the world is more open to a new thing than we think it is, as long as we can accept the fact that it’s never going to be really popular. It’s just going to make a small difference and give us the privilege to do it again.

There’s a quote I read recently, which says you know you’re a good parent if your children don’t want to be famous. I think that’s an idea that goes against the grain of how a lot of kids grow up—with this idea of stardom, of the YouTube video that has a billion hits.

Yeah. I’ll tell you an anecdote that blows me away. A kid that my kids grew up with ends up at an Ivy League school. He auditions for the improvisation troupe. The troupe announces its results—he came in 12th, and they only let 11 people into the troupe. He was very disappointed. I said, “Why don’t you start your own troupe? It is improvisation after all! Just put some signs up around campus! You’ll have a troupe within a week!” He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t find it in himself to start his own troupe, because it would mean that he would have to pick himself as opposed to getting picked, and he needed the authority to do that. He didn’t feel he had it.

I guess if you pick yourself then you put yourself on the line and a lot of people are really scared of failing, of being the one that doesn’t make it..

Right. Which means they’re going to fail. The people who aren’t willing to put themselves on the line have already announced they are failing.

You have two choices: you might fail, or you will fail. It feels to me it’s better to “might fail.”

But you can “will fail” quietly, while you have to “might fail” loudly.

Correct! And what I have found is the cost of that isn’t nearly as high as people think it is.

Right. It is always easier to look back on failure in hindsight and say “that was a great learning curve.” But the emotional experience of failing— is that something you’ve ever struggled with?

Oh constantly! I still struggle with it every day! That’s my job. But what I say to people is: start a blog, under another name, don’t tell anybody, no one will read it, write every single day, no one will read it. You are failing, completely in private, completely quietly. And then, through the magic of search, someone will read it. They might hate it! So you have failed again—almost silently. But over time, 10 people, 15 people, will engage with your work. That is about as quiet a failure as one can hope for, as quiet a success as one can imagine. But it inoculates you against being stuck.

My first book sold for $5000. I didn’t sell another book for a year. I sold my second book for $3000. It took me 20 years to become an overnight success. I’m really glad it took a while because if it had happened the first day, I would have been completely unprepared for the criticism that would have followed. But at the beginning, when no one’s watching, when you’re just getting quiet, private rejection letters, you learn that it’s not fatal.

What was it like struggling with it when you were not a success for so long?

You know, the big challenge here is how much support do you get from people who care about you.

Do you get a lot of support?

Well, my Mum died about 15 years ago. She was extraordinary in understanding what I wanted to do, and in giving me the right amount of quiet support. I was living in New York, surrounded by investment bankers and lawyers and fancy people, it was tough…

 

It’s really important that you find fellow travellers, people who aren’t going to put you down as a defence mechanism but are going to cheer you on, because you are on the same path.

I think external motivation is one of the things that a lot of people lack—that there isn’t actually somebody saying, “Hey, you can do it.”

Exactly. I think we can complain about that or we can go find those people. And the act of finding those people is easier than ever before.

Do you think there is a particular role that business should play in the world?

Yeah. Kevin Kelly has written a fabulous, important book called What Technology Wants. His thesis is that technology is a species, that it is evolving before our eyes to accomplish something. Technology does what it wants, not what we want it to do. When you read the book, I think you’ll find it’s quite profound. I think business is the same thing. Business isn’t any longer a tool for human beings. It’s becoming its own species. I think that what human beings have to do is say, ‘Wait a second! Business exists to serve us, not the other way around!’ The goal of government shouldn’t be “how can we enable business,” the goal of government should be “how can business enable people to accomplish what they need to accomplish?” Sometimes we get stuck on the distinction between the two. Just because somebody has a big company with a lot of employees and a lot of money, we cede authority to that institution when in fact, that institution exists to serve us.

I think there are a lot of businesses that aren’t serving us. Are they going to change?

Only if they have to to survive, that’s the way evolution works. The question is: how do we make it in the interest of the royalty that is now running the Fortune 500 companies? They have private armies, private jets, and they’re surrounded by knights and knaves and soldiers and jesters. How do we make it so that that royalty comes to the conclusion that what is in their best interest is also what’s in our best interests? We have to start asking questions that lead to conversations.

What are you most excited about for the future?

When I started on the internet, I had to explain to people that email was a real thing that would be popular one day. We had to build enormous expensive systems to make even the most basic thing work. I imagine it was a little bit like being a blacksmith at the beginning of the Iron Age. The tools have, in the last 10 years, evolved faster than they have ever evolved in human history. I don’t think we’re good yet at using the tools. I think that as a generation that takes the tools for granted comes up, they’re going to build things with the tools that we could not even imagine.

I agree. I think the tools are moving so fast we haven’t yet worked out what the hell they are capable of.

Yep. And it’s up to us. It’s not up to some stranger.

Your sons—how have you tried to educate them?

I am super proud of both my kids. I don’t talk about them a lot. But they have grown up to be exactly the kind of questioning, leading, interested and interesting people that my wife and I set out to raise. It involved, at every step along the way, doing the thing that we thought was important as parents as opposed to doing the thing that was easy or convenient. It involved making a lot of choices that sort of undermined the fabric of the industrial educational establishment and instead challenging our kids to become humans as opposed to cogs in a system.

What were some of those sacrifices or changes that you had to make?

Well the simplest one is if all you’re going to do is reward an A and frown when your kid gets a C, you’ve made a really clear statement about what’s important—compliance to the testing regime. On the other hand, if a C came with enormous months of effort and led to insight, then you have to celebrate it. That’s the goal. When you’re in an environment where the goal is to get into a famous college, and the definition of a famous college is one that requires high compliance to standardised tests, then that means the other parents are rooting for something totally different to you.

Have people ever said you’re doing things wrong?

You need to shun the non-believers. I wasn’t looking for approval or feedback from the system. I was looking for the right thing to do. I’m not a perfect parent. I don’t think there are perfect parents. But I am thrilled that the work my kids put in, and the support they got from their parents, seems to have created two positive contributions to the planet.

 

Daniel Teitelbaum

Daniel is the head of content at The School of Life Australia, a cultural and educational institution dedicated to developing emotional intelligence. If Daniel had to be stuck on a desert island with a philosopher, he would choose Plato—a cave may come in handy.

Photography by Tony Trichanh

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