An Idiot, An Imposter & An Iconoclast
I am all three.
Undeniably, unapologetically and deliberately so.
And that’s made me a better educator.
I am often the resident idiot in the room (or on the zoom call), because I need the things I hear/ learn to make sense. I need them to be uncomplicated and easy to understand.
If the content doesn’t fit these two criteria I’m not afraid to ask repetitive questions till it does. I’m certainly not shy about being the idiot.
I often find that when things are complicated, it’s because either the person explaining it doesn’t understand it fully themselves, or is telling you that you’re too stupid to understand so please leave it to them — A huge red flag.
I need to be able to break down the things I learn into easily digestible bits that are readily remembered and effortlessly recalled.
Because then, I can explain it to an 9 yr old.
I also need to see the relevance of what I’m hearing/ learning, or it doesn’t interest me.
I say this makes me a better educator because teens actually like learning the same way I do.
Being an idiot also makes me stubborn, because I don’t know any better.
So when people much smarter than I, felt that I should focus on financial education for adults because it’s an easier and a more lucrative market — I didn’t listen.
I didn’t want to get people out of financial conundrums, I wanted to make sure these kids never got there in the first place. (The teens we teach agree).
When they said, I should digitize all the content and switch solely to an asynchronous/ pre-recorded delivery because that’s more efficient and scalable — I didn’t listen.
I thought it was important for the teens to interact with the facilitator in live webclasses, and for the facilitator to build rapport and trusting relationships with the teens in her care. (The teens we teach agree).
When they said I should partner with financial institutions and let them market their products directly to the kids — I didn’t listen.
I thought that would be particularly distasteful. We are intentional about not partnering with any financial entity that would require this. (The teens and their parents agree).
All the above mentioned points would unequivocally attest to me being an idiot.
I actually think there is immense value in being one. Everyone should try it sometime.
I am not an academic. I do not hail from the hallowed halls of academia.
So for the longest time I demurred to them, thinking that they knew what was best for everyone.
Until I realized they don’t — not for everyone, not in all circumstances and certainly not on all issues.
While they may have the best intentions, this does not always translate into doing what’s best for the student.
So while I initially felt like an imposter, when starting the Kids Finance Initiative; I had looked long and hard into what was being taught around money, how it was being taught, and more importantly what was not being taught — and it didn’t smell right.
I knew there had to be a better way. This was too critical an issue to leave to chance or experience, especially when I needed my own kids to acquire this skill soon.
I couldn’t risk sitting and waiting silently on the sidelines, and academia is famous for its glacial pace of change.
I was intrigued by what the entrepreneur Naveen Jain said: Your ignorance is what makes you the best person to disrupt the industry.
That’s true because you can ask questions the experts can’t.
You can think in ways the experts can’t because they are boxed in by their assumptions.
You can break rules the experts won’t ever dare to.
People from within the industry tend to tweak incrementally.
I knew that incremental change wasn’t going to cut it. A radical make over was in order.
I was also enough of an outsider to have no stake in the way things have always been done.
I could tell the emperor that he’s not wearing any clothes.
But I was sufficiently affected by the imposter syndrome to ensure that I relentlessly questioned my thinking and my ideas. I read and studied incessantly, because I was insecure about my competence and profoundly curious about what I didn’t know. I wanted to ensure that I was throughly prepared and better informed than anyone who could question my credentials.
As Adam Grant says in his latest book, Think Again: Humility is a crucial ingredient of the mind. And I made sure I was dosing up regularly.
Being afflicted with the imposter syndrome led me to underestimate my skill; but that was okay because it made me a more intent learner.
Being afflicted with the imposted syndrome didn’t douse my vision, it genuinely served to inflame it.
Being afflicted with the imposter syndrome wasn’t debilitating, it fueled my motivation to do better, to think better and to be better.
That’s why I actually think there is immense value feeling like an imposter. Everyone should try it sometime.
A fancy word for a rebel.
Someone who criticizes cherished beliefs or institutions.
I am guilty.
Read on for some of the cherished beliefs I wish to obliterate.
That teenagers are moody, irritable and disengaged because of hormonal changes. No, there really is no evidence to prove this, in most cases they are this way because of a lack of proper sleep and diet — both nutritional and psychological.
That grown-ups always know better. No, most times we are flying by the seat of our pants and just hoping for the best. We really have no clue how things are going to turn out.
That kids cannot be trusted. They absolutely can. As John Holt says, “Nothing could be simpler, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as kids that we could not be trusted.”
That fear and coercion are the most effective ways to get kids to learn. That’s not just manifestly false, it’s actively damaging our kids and turning them off learning forever.
That teaching kids about money will somehow ruin their innocence and make them materialistic. No, getting kids and teens to understand how money works actually makes them appreciate it more, makes them more mindful about money decisions and ultimately makes them more successful.
I am an iconoclast because I now know better.
I am an iconoclast because I believe that our kids and teens deserve better.
I think there is immense value in being an iconoclast. Everyone should try it sometime.