What matters isn’t what a person has or doesn’t have; its is what he or she is afraid of losing. The more you have to lose, the more fragile you are.*
Yet what is distinctive is just how selective we are about the topics we deem it possible to educate ourselves in. Our energies are overwhelmingly directed toward material, scientific, and technical subjects and away from psychological and emotional ones.**
(Alain de Botton)
If someone employs me, they don’t only receive what I have but also who I am.
Who we are and what we contribute are immutably joined. Yet we see no reason for including these in our educational curriculums.
What if the following were embraced as skills to be learned alongside reading, writing, maths and science:
Be fully present.
Empty our mind of preconceptions.
Take our time.
Weigh advice against the counsel of our convictions.
Deliberate without being paralysed.^
These are listed by Ryan Holiday as the skills and qualities used by John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As much as what his office made available to him, it was about the man Kennedy was trying to be.
Alain de Botton in writing on existential maturity and emotional intelligence reflects:
how we are taught may matter inordinately, because we have ingrained tendencies to shut our ears to all the major truths about our deeper selves. Our settled impulse is to blame anyone who lays our blind spots and insufficiencies bare, unless our defenses have first been adroitly and seductively appeased. In the face of critically important insights, we get distracted, proud, or fidgety. We may prefer to do almost anything other than take in information that could save us.**
This is a fragile place to be. Humility changes this. Wrongly thought of as being a way of losing oneself or becoming invisible, humility is how we find our strongest and most beautiful self, destroying the ego and its appetites, providing us with something real to build on:
Constraints are the womb of creation.^^
Though most of us are surrounded by the ordinary we can become generative, alchemists, if you will:
A refined soul is in general one with the gift of transforming the most limited task and the most petty object into something infinite by the way in which it is handled.*^
(*From Nassim Taleb’s Skin in the Game.)
(**Alain de Botton, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Alain de Botton on Existential Maturity and What Emotional Intelligence really Means.)
(^From Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key.)
(^^From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(*^From Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.)