Finding The Unmistakeable I Am

Screen Grab from ABC News obit
I was saddened this morning to hear that Steve Jobs had died.

I immediately wanted to write a quick blog post with the title 'Why we should all be more like Steve Jobs'.

Mr. Jobs’s own research and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide. When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.” New York Times

I thought, what a great role model for resisting the  X-Factorizing of culture - art and literature chosen by marketing departments, committee and popular vote rather than the quality of a particular vision.

My thesis would be: what the world needs now is not Facebook Like-led consensus, but the kind of vision that made Steve Jobs surprise the world.

Thanks to
But then I also wanted to write a blog post about teachers because it was World Teacher's Day the other day and I read an editorial in the Philippine Star wondering what children think when they see these beloved role models leave to become housemaids in Singapore ...

These days, a career as educator has lost much of its appeal. As little girls grow up, reality creeps in: teaching calls for long hours of work, and the pay is rarely commensurate to the expertise required ... The realities are worse in some public schools, where a little girl might see the household of her role model become prosperous only when the teacher leaves the profession and works as a maid in Singapore. (Note to Star: little girls AND boys ... just saying ... )

So I was thinking about role models and Steve Jobs and teachers when I found a video of William Fiennes - author of The Snow Geese  and The Music Room -  talking about his work with the authors-in-schools charity  First Story.

William said his heart sank when he was handed versions of Harry Potter and Twilight and Grand Theft Auto - "more vampires than you can shake a sharpened stick at" - with characters named Alexander and Sophie written by teenagers with names like Ramendeep, Satvinder and Barveen.

William talked about helping these young writers find a voice - not just as a writer but as a person. Here's what William told those young people:

You have a voice. It's unique to you. ...  you have a world in your heads a world of experiences and memories, sensations dreams hopes despairs anxieties fantasies and that's your great gift, your great resource and richness as a writer ...  and apart from that, the only thing to bear in mind is that all great writing commits itself to the concrete, the specific, the particular rather than the vague general and the abstract.

William called it finding "the unmistakeable I am".

And that's when I realized that I had found an arc for my Steve Jobs / Role Models / Teachers post.

Steve Jobs had vision but you can't just go around telling people to have more vision. And life for teachers is tough enough. Role models live in the real world.

At the end of the day, we've got to help kids find their Unmistakeable I am - because only their Unmistakeable I Am can change their world.

Teachers, parents, everyone, watch this video please.

Watch the speech on Intelligence Squared 

Does writing affect one's love of reading? I have to admit that writing novels has definitely spoiled some of the joy of reading for me ...  read my latest post on Notes from the Slushpile. My latest on the DFB Story Blog: My Dark Endeavour: Five Monsters I've loved