It was just on my feeble mind

As an old foggie….it seems that many young adults have been raised – for better or for worse – to think that the only things that matter are a) base intelligence b) your personal network c) being persistent.

Emailing people self-promotional material on a regular basis isn’t just a character flaw; it’s what is actually taught especially in elite Ivy/liberal arts schools. They seem to be told that this impresses people, that this is the way successful people make it, that this is how you eventually forge a connection with someone. Most people who email you tracks probably think that they are being really savvy by doing so. This to them is what self-confidence and persistence means.

The trait that I find that generation lacks most of all is attention to detail. I probably lack it as well. Remembering to cross all the t’s not only seems literally impossible, we are taught that it does not matter, it makes no difference, and talent shines far above such petty concerns. And of course now my generation is learning this is not true. And we – or at least I – have no idea how to solve it. Being conscientious seems vastly harder to achieve – except perhaps self-control – we are told we possess in great measure.

I don’t understand how Wall Streeters, or, hell, jet pilots do it – the consequences of making a little error in such a world can be enormous. And not making little errors – well, they were not raised that way. THEY had parents and computers (spell check!) to hold their hands.

I think it’s why so many smart, ambitious young people are drawn to entertainment. Music is great because of its flaws and the vagaries of its creation. I’m a writer, and no book – no sentence – will be word perfect. And we’ve learned that makes our work better than it would be if it were, in fact, ‘perfect’.

And that’s why you don’t see many young ‘elites’ going into the sciences. Or analytical jobs. And it’s exactly why you see people like Jonah Lehrer. Because we don’t think those things are a big deal. I don’t understand why his publisher pulled his books. It doesn’t seem to follow. He came up with quotes that weren’t quite word perfect, but furthered his argument.

Most of us paid $200k specifically to learn how to use information to further our argument (rather than using information to determine what our argument is). And now people are getting fired for it. 


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