I’ve been asking myself how I got to where I am today.
What’s the unique piece in the crazy mix of education, life experiences and lucky breaks that made me who I am?
As counterintuitive as it may seem in the face of today’s connected reality and my role in the tech world, I sense that my core as an individual is grounded in the perspectives that I cultivated as a liberal arts student.
Giving myself the unencumbered freedom to plunge with abandon into literature, philosophy, and film. Studying the connections between art and architecture. Writing incessantly and debating fiercely on the most nuanced and obscure of topics.
Play acting the thoughts of the greatest thinkers and artists of all time.
Is there really a connecting thread between what I do today as a profession to that kid spouting Rilke, Baudelaire and e.e. cummings? Sartre and Artaud? Bergman and Kurasawa?
I think absolutely so.
Obviously, we are all products of our times. When I emerged out of this period studying the history of thought and the human condition, I fell headfirst–and hard–into the beginnings of the software and tech revolution.
And I stayed there through each piece of its growth, from the first computer publishing programs to computer games to well…. today. Software publisher, market maker, online business builder, enterprise sales strategist, community and web thinker.
I’m still obsessed with contextual interconnections, with the power and fluidity of the nature of thought and behavior.
With the realization that what we say or create is less important than what is heard or seen. That the true visionaries are those that listen to the quiet pulses of the world, too faint for most to hear. That language extant from stories that touch emotions and spur reflection is always inadequate.
This is true in art. True in communications. True even in the architecture of platforms. And certainly true in the power of community and brands that touch the heart of the market.
Up to this very day, every time it is my turn at the whiteboard, or in front of a group, surrounded by brilliant technical minds, I lean on this perspective and strength. It is what makes me feel I can give it an authentic shot without fear of falling flat. Or fall prey to thinking that the status quo is something to hold onto.
That part of myself I believe came from the freedom as a student to play act my way through the thoughts and ideas of the world’s most disruptive minds. As while we look at classics as just that, in context they were each historically the crazy ones. The futurists. The free thinkers. The often misunderstood.
This is, of course, more nuanced than simply saying I got this from studying Camus or reading Faulkner or Charles Olson.
Even though I’ll admit, I cannot ride my bike over the Brooklyn Bridge without hearing Hart Crane, I rarely, reread many of these books.
The grasp of the power of the ineffable as a defining truth is what I made my own from my education. That was my takeaway.
Liberal arts as an unencumbered poise towards integrated thought and embracing completely the process of discovery. A curriculum designed to pursue literacy as a vocation and fluidity of open thinking as a platform for lifelong learning.
I lean on this every day.
And I give it credit for those breakthrough moments when I get something just right, something that touches people with an idea or a product or something they can make their own.
I believe this point of view, this personal DNA if you will, had time to discover itself, back in those college and university days, tempered of course over time by the rigors of experience.
It’s intriguing that recently there’s been a mini-meme floating around, forecasting a resurgence of sorts for the liberal arts.
The idea is that with more leisure time, with distributed, flex-time workforces, a greater segment of the population will tend towards studying and appreciating the arts. That when automation removes countless jobs that today move data and paper around, there will be a shift towards lionizing the thinker and artist to the status of the maker and developer today.
I honestly doubt this will happen hard or fast, but I do think, in the best minds, business and technical alike, it’s already there.
Not a rereading per se of the masters in an isolated world of classrooms certainly. But an understanding that the integration of multidisciplinary thought is necessary to intuit our way forward in an always shifting world. That the arcane can be instructive. That the obvious is often the wrong course.
This is food for thought for all of us.
Just maybe liberal arts is already having a subtle renaissance, reimagined to our times, and in context to the world as it is today.
Try it on and see if works.
It does for me.