Stop Focusing on the Wrong Shit

What if B.B. King had to pass a written, standardized advanced mathematics exam to be legally allowed to play guitar commercially?  Crazy, right?

What if Eddie Van Halen had to be able to write and decipher advanced music theory, such as in the photo above, in order for him to play and make music?  Well, we’d never know who David Lee Roth is and that would be quite a tragedy.

There was a TV show around 2005, called Tommy Lee Goes to College.  One of my favorite drummers of all time and he’s actually pretty good.  In one episode, he’s practicing with the drum corps of the school’s marching band and cannot get in the rhythm.  It was so difficult and frustrating for him to get in sync with everyone else, because it’s not what he does.  Just imagine, if he had to pass a standardized written and practical exam to be able to continue as the drummer for Motley Crue.

Insane?

How about this? Our college entrance exams place a huge focus on mathematics (Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and so on) and because of this, many students are not accepted, due to low math scores. In his book, The Math Myth, Andrew Hacker notes that of those who do go to college, nearly half leave without a degree; “Failure to pass mandated mathematics courses is the chief academic reason they don’t finish.”

In another study, it was found that the brains of advanced mathematicians activate a network involving bilateral intraparietal, dorsal prefrontal, and inferior temporal regions of the brain, while most of us mere mortals don’t work that way, no matter how hard we study!

There’s a chapter in Hacker’s book entitled, “Does Your Dermatologist Use Calculus?” in which he notes that many top medical schools require applicants to have taken calculus even though doctors never need it anywhere in their entire careers. We could be losing great doctors.

Hacker also notes that engineers and scientists rarely need the math they are required to master.  Now the fun part …

The United States is currently ranked somewhere between 36th and 41st in the world in Mathematics. Singapore, China, and Japan take the top rankings. Because of this, the US government is and has been pushing advanced mathematics through our public schools, college entrance exams, and universities.

However, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United States is ranked 4th in innovation. Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Not Singapore, China, or Japan. In fact, Singapore is 6th, China (Hong Kong) comes in at 14th, and Japan in 16th.

What’s up with that?

In an effort to catch up with the world leaders in subject matter that doesn’t convert to reality, we’re stifling our production of potentially great field specific leaders.

As you can see, innovation, invention, entrepreneurial spirit, and getting things done in reality and seeing projects through to fruition doesn’t take advanced math. It takes desire, passion, soul, work, ingenuity, creative thinking, people skills, communication, flexibility, belief, sacrifice, risk, practice, trial/error/success, feel, intuition, and everything that makes us human.

Whether we’re a yoga instructor, musician, public speaker, professor, doctor, app developer, or painter, the receiver of our work, our art, our science, our expertise is a human.

Stop focusing on the wrong shit!

A Joyful Explosion of Humanity

Right around this time every year, I’m riveted, mesmerized, and lost for about three hours in front of my television.  No … not that show.  Not that one either.

This show is an eclectic mix of genres, backgrounds, and styles, mixing together like a well-blended cocktail of only the best unrelated ingredients served in a chalice that is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It tastes refreshing and makes you feel good.

The atmosphere is one of love, respect, and positivity.  It’s a nullification of boundaries, lines, divisiveness, hate, ethnicity, religious beliefs, politics, and human drama; which is all based on bullshit, as far as I can tell.

Is it the soulful words in acceptance speeches?  Is it the introduction speeches, because they’re written and given by a fellow artist who just happens to be a big fan of whom they’re speaking of?  It’s not just some presenter and a teleprompter, you know.  In Brian May’s speech, when he was inducting Def Leppard, he said, I wouldn’t let anyone else do this. He’s a fan and a friend.

Is it the music?  Yeah, I turn that shit up to eleven.

But, that’s not what captivates me.  Actually it’s all of that, along with an appreciation of the artistry, talent, skill, effort, writing, sacrifice, tragedy, triumph, risk, and the drive to keep going, producing beautiful music in the face of all adversity.

No, that’s not quite it either.

It’s what I see that could be.  I see Janelle Monae genuinely enthralled by the performance of Def Leppard; dancing and smiling.  It’s when I see Stevie Nicks hanging on every word of Janet Jackson’s acceptance speech.  I see an audience full of highly accomplished artists, all in their own right, cheering for one-another with appreciation and respect.

That time when Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn, George Harrison’s son, and Prince all played together, performing “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”.  Or when Bono, Mick Jagger, Fergie, Will-I-AM, and The Edge all performed “Gimme Shelter” together.  Harry Styles performing with Stevie Nicks.  Brian May, Susanna Hoffs, Steve Van Zandt, and Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople (what?!) performing together, “All the Young Dudes.”

Yes!  It truly is a joyful explosion of humanity.

It’s like Robin Williams once said about music; “… a harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.”

Photo by Israel Palacio on Unsplash