Keynote: Sarah Lewis
Sarah Lewis is an Assistant Professor at Harvard and is speaking to us this morning about the gift of failure and innovation. She begins her session by describing an image of a sun in a warehouse. She considered how we create our lives. How do innovators, artists, entrepreneurs achieve their path-breaking creative results.
Creativity is something we all want, and ideas that certain hemispheres of the brains are responsible for creativity have been proven wrong. She talks about Martin Luther King Jr., and finding a transcript of his from seminary. She points out two Cs on his transcript…in public speaking. How did that teacher feel when King went on to be a masterful public speaker? How did King’s experience in seminary contribute to his success?
What do these stories mean for our lives? Lewis explains how she became inspired by a friend who provided more energy, and allowed Lewis to feel more alive. She tells a story about a friend who couldn’t swim, but was watching a child who began drowning. The friend saved the child, but passed away. She explained how this death of her friend inspired her to pursue the things she didn’t feel she was capable of doing.
Lewis has written “The Rise: Creativity, the gift of failure, and the search of mastery.” She discusses group think and how that has allowed us to innovate. Previous spaces that were private are brought to the public, and she explains how this helps the broader community. She explains how all of the individuals discussed in her research were gritty, but they also knew when to quit.
In considering the topic of mastery, she shares some images of medalist; with bronze and silver medalists looking disappointed. Why is this? They’ve achieved so much, but it’s because of counterfactual thinking…thinking about what might have been. Success is achieving once, while mastery is being able to achieve again, and again, and again. Mastery is a constant, curve-line pursuit that requires failure.
She discusses dysfunctional persistence, the concept of being unable to see things anew because you have done things so frequently. For example, in testing the same course over and over again. It was found that those who were furthest away from the domain of knowledge (deliberate amateur), were often the individuals who held the solutions.
Lewis discusses the film industry and the blacklist, a list identifying productions that weren’t being picked up…films such as Juno, The King’s Speech, and Lars and the Real Girl. The blacklist was able to undo previously held beliefs by decision-makers in the industry by creating public domains for risk taking, a feat that was yielded (in the film industry) production of incredibly successful masterpieces.
Referencing Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. If you haven’t read that book, you NEED to check it out. It explains so much and was truly inspirational. Some of the examples made my ‘problems’ seem like small potatoes, but it inspired me to become a grittier person within my profession.
Grit makes me think of Brene Brown and how she studied the concept of Shame for YEARS, and when she realized shame was really Vulnerability, she went off on a new research endeavour, not really leaving behind her previous research to begin her new research…after decades! While she was able to use much of her Shame research, it would have also felt devastating to drop that much research and start over…but she did it! And her research is helping thousands of individuals.
Sarah closes out her session by explaining that all of the individuals she has discussed today are gritty, but they all knew how and when to quit. She discusses how we should take failure and use it as a learning experience within our own creativity and learning endeavours.