Teachers Are Not the Final Authority

It is amazing how accessible information and ideas are through the internet. With a click of the mouse or a tap of the finger, we are exposed to some of the most educating and provocative things. With my iPad 2 in hand, I endlessly scroll through the App Store searching for my next source of amusement. If you are lucky enough to own a mobile Apple product, be it an iPhone or iPad, I strongly suggest downloading the FREE TED application. For those who are not familiar, TED is a nonprofit organization with one overarching goal, providing people with “Ideas Worth Spreading“. Their website provides over 900 free talks from some of the most innovative people in Technology, Entertainment, and Design.

Owner of IDEO, created many icons of the digital generation

I spent a whole morning only brushing the surface of the TED database. I touched on topics from the amazing influence of films on expressing the realities of life to the need of globally pushing the contraception agenda. I felt understood as I stumbled across David Kelley‘s talk, How to Build Your Creative Confidence. As he opened to the audience, he spoke of his close friend Brian. In the third grade, Brian had once molded a horse out of the clay he found in his classroom. Another classmate took notice and remarked, “That’s terrible! That looks nothing like a horse!” The horse was crushed into a misshapen ball and thrown away.

Kelley emphasized that each time he tells Brian’s story, someone relates to the experience. Wether it was a teacher that shut them down or a peer that was particularly cruel, those experiences reduced that person’s confidence and created a fear of failure. Kelley has witnessed people remove themselves at the mention of creativity within the work place. Their response is often, “I am just not the creative type.” Kelley disagrees. If people stick with the process, they end up doing great things and they surprise themselves with how innovative they can be.

I myself have felt this exact feeling. I know I am not the strongest writer, but I feel my thoughts and ideas are worth sharing. I took a class recently that required me to write creatively. I was not reporting on a building’s history or detailing a project, I was strictly to look at something and react to it through writing. Easier said than done. I found myself researching the concrete facts, creating a great tribute to how the buildings came to fruition and giving detail descriptions of what I saw, but it lacked feeling. As I struggled with creating these pieces, I was also receiving some of the harshest criticism of my writing. I was told I my level of writing was not where it should be, that it was annoying to read through my work. I’m now scared to write – period. Even now as I write this post, I am worried about how many grammatical errors there may be. I am discouraged, but from Kelley’s talk I believe I can force my creativity to bloom and thus my writing to improve.

A teacher is meant to show or explain how to do something. But in multidisciplinary fields, how can there only be one way to do something? It is important to not lose confidence. I know because I had and it was a very difficult path. If one person says that you will never be your dream, find someone who does. Teachers are not the authority, you are. If you take a second and talk to some of the most successful people, odds are there were several people who told them they would never be what they now excel at. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college. I am not recommending that everyone should dropout of college. These innovators had great ideas, but they had even greater creative confidence and that is a formula for success.

Frank Gehry in the documentary “Sketches of Gehry”, 2005

Expression through design takes creative confidence. After watching the 2005 documentary “Sketches of Frank Gehry”, one segment stays fresh in my mind. As Gehry and Pollack are driving around California, Gehry relives his time at the University of Southern California. In his second year of architecture, his teacher called him into his office and said, “Frank this isn’t for you, you should get out of it.” Gehry says that when “he said it, it didn’t mean shit” to him. But later admits that it was devastating for him to hear but he did not give up.

Maybe this does not help me figure out exactly what I want to do with my life, but I know that as soon as I do discover that one thing that allows me my creative confidence, I am grabbing tight to it and never letting it go! Defying the authority of teachers can leading to amazing things after all…

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is an example of a...

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao


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