HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | SEPTEMBER 2016 | Back-to-School | “Accessing Our Own Greatness”

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016


NOTE: The owner of these words declined to have her picture taken at Mason Street Grill, but I have sent off an email to her assistant to acquire an official photo.  What I can tell you is that this talented and educated woman works globally in leadership development, working with both individuals and major corporations.  She was a gracious and intellectually stimulating interviewee.

My favorite educational moment was as a Harvard Fellow.  Out of the blue, I took a summer off and went to acting school.

A little background: on my mother’s side were some of the first black millionaires in New York.  My father was a musician, a Calypso artist.  (I remember him coming with me to school when I was in the second grade.  The teacher was asking questions, and I watched him keep raising his hand to answer.  To see my father [who had a limited education] come into this space like this was beautiful.)

So acting school was out of the blue–and powerful.  The acting teacher started by having us all clap our hands.  He told us, “You have been lying and acting all your life.  Now you’ve come here to be authentic.”  So now, education to me is a symbol of identity, a badge of identity.  I had been a straight-A student all my life, with the highest expectations for myself, but now I . . . felt free.  In acting class, I had been given permission to be authentic.

You know that research says that the more you encounter new things, the more your brain develops the ability to solve problems.  That’s why everywhere I go I look for interesting hotels like this one.  It’s a strategy.  And I don’t want to bore you with academia, but there’s something called generativity theory, which is about encountering and connecting new things.  There’s a series of exercises one can do that can change one’s ability to solve life’s problems–because those problem-solving parts of the brain are the parts that can help us access our own greatness.”

When I teach classes here in the U.S., students tend to go to the exact same seat every day.  Some will even stand next to a seat that someone else has occupied, cross their arms, and say, “You’re in my seat.”  However, when I was teaching in Tanzania, the women sat down in the same seat for the first few days, but the next time, they all sat in different ones.  I asked them why they had done this: Were they trying to trick or test me?  But they said, “No.  If we sat next to the same person, that would be rude.”

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