Memories of Awe Episode 38

Liz wanted to explore another dimension of awe – the act of creativity. She wondered if Professor McKown had any stories to share about creative acts and how they inspired awe. He probably had limited experience with the creative arts, but maybe he had experiences with innovations.

LJI’ve read the Book Awe that you recommended. Our focus has been primarily on moral beauty. I realize that you probably have limited experience teaching those in the creative arts, but could you share a story of awe from an innovation?

KMcK:  I have a very recent story to share. Ken was a very creative student, and that led him to struggling in college.

LJ: Wait a minute. I thought college was about stimulating creativity?

KMcK:  You have really bought into the hype, haven’t you? How often have you been asked to express your own ideas? When you are asked to do a research paper, you are taught to discuss what others have done. And when you are given a test, how often has a question began by saying: According to lecture…? Liz, creativity isn’t valued in a university.

LJ: What you say has been my experience. I guess I’m too much of a conformist to challenge that. What did Ken do?

KMcK:  First, his mind was always thinking of new ideas, and those were more exciting than what he was being taught. As a result, his grades were terrible. He was in constant academic trouble.

While in college, he created a YouTube channel which had views in the thousands. But he struggled to settle on one idea. He graduated eventually.

LJ: Are you saying that innovators are challenged to stay focused?

KMcK:  I hate to make that broad generalization, but it was certainly the case with Ken.

LJ: I have a feeling that we are leading up to the rest of the story.

KMcK:  Yes, we are. Ken developed a partnership with a classmate who helped him stay focused. Together they have created an innovative business that is helpful in monitoring emissions that are contributing to climate change issues.

What’s funny is that Ken has gone from being an academic pariah to being a hero of innovation in our state. He and his partner have developed one of the most successful innovations to come from our university. They had no research grants. They just did it.

LJ: Another great story of a student succeeding when most everyone would have given up on him.

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“Innovation is not born from the dream, innovation is born from the struggle.” – Simon Sinek (inspirational speaker)

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