Put Away the Books
There is that iconic moment in the 1967 movie “To Sir With Love” where Sidney Poitier gathers up the text books and throws them in the trash. He decides that his recalcitrant students need some real life lessons more than anything else; things that are practical, that will train them to live well in the world, and not be found helpless. How to make a salad, how to defend themselves, understanding the importance of manners. That’s life smarts. All of those books won’t help if you have none.
It’s a rolling equation to judge which kind of smarts is most needed. There is nothing wrong with book smarts. I love books. My library is expansive. Still, it brings to mind the rocket scientist with wrench in hand trying to fix a leaky tap. All those hypotheticals won’t help him with something quite so pedestrian. There are no theories about plumbing. None that matter, anyway.
Since we all hopefully wind up living in our own home, the cottage arts come first to mind. There is a lot to the business of running a household and as you can see on debt strategy shows, many people stumble into the world blindly, thinking you can fix everything if you throw money at it. Even money you don’t really have. Stupid people with university degrees in fancy subjects, are the ones who make credit card companies rich.
So yes, throw away the books although it pains me to say so. Books will give you soft skills like empathy and a rounded knowledge of the world, but at other times you simply have to roll up your sleeves and get on with the business of life. You won’t want to be perusing the nuances of page ninety-nine in the dark with a flashlight when you are out in the middle of nowhere trying to change a flat on a country road.
The gist of it is that there is always a distance between theory and fact, and life up close will despense with all theories in a nanosecond when you need solutions instead of conjecture. This also translates into leadership. You can no doubt list the turkeys you have come across in management. Typically, they love to have many meetings and discussion groups where they “talk to issues”. The first time I heard that terminology I almost laughed out loud. The manager involved strove to impress, but it was obvious that she didn’t have much solidity beyond appearances. The most obtuse players in the office prominently displayed books on upper level management strategies in their work area, but didn’t know enough to say “good morning” to their fellow work mates when they passed by.
But like Shakespeare said, the truth will out eventually. Useless people stay useless, often seen jettisoning about an office with a clipboard in hand, sporting a purposeful walk. That kind of manager loves to sample data and surveys, instead of simply turning around and asking someone involved what they actually think. Moreover, the poseurs are dangerous. Smart people will instantly recognize that you will never impart any meaningful information to such a person, primarily because they are vacuous on a personal level and wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway. The problem is that people who do not know how to properly value information, are the same ones who do not know how to properly value people. They are the first to throw another collegue under the bus.
In contrast, I have been with managers who knew on a practical level, how to manage difficult people, and difficult situations. They knew how to delegate work to impromptu teams on the fly, and how to deliver in a crunch with no wasted breath. No book would save them at that point. It’s a combination of savvy and experience that helps. There is a tendency for people and situations to contradict all the laws that predict outcomes. At that point, the school of life will be more important than any book. I don’t have anything against books, honest. In fact I love books. I just know that they must take their rightful place on the shelf once the real business of life begins.