Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Delicate Delinquent

I grew up a mile outside Newark, New Jersey, home town of Jerry Lewis.

My mom, a school teacher, worked with an older colleague who'd had Lewis in her fifth grade classroom 25 years before.

Despite his fame as a nightclub, radio, TV and film star, my mom's coworker hated Lewis.

He'd been a 10-year-old thorn in her side that whole school year. 

A jerk. Smart ass. Wise guy. Class clown. 

She hated him.

In Originals, Adam Grant says the difference between an original and the rest of us boils down to whether or not that person "rejects defaults." 

Default behaviors. Default beliefs. Default systems. Default "worlds."

"The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists," Grant says.

We tend to think originals are appreciated early, as were Mozart, Rimbaud and Picasso.

But that's not the norm, Grant says.

Social science shows school kids who are originals are the least likely to be appreciated.

In one study, teachers listed their favorite and least favorite students, and rated each group.

The least favorites were the non-conformists.

"Teachers tend to discriminate against highly creative students, labeling them as trouble-makers," Grant says. 

"In response, many children quickly learn to get with the program, keeping their original ideas to themselves."

But some people, for their own crazy reasons, can't sit still long enough to "accept defaults."

Happy 90th Birthday, Mr. Lewis.

Still rejecting defaults after all these years.

UPDATE: Jerry Lewis passed away August 20, 2017, in his home in Las Vegas.
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