This article by Srikumar Rao originally appeared on The Rao Institute.
Isn’t it amazing how tiny, insignificant actions or events can transform our lives?
A mad man with a knife, an oil slick on the road, an unexpected iceberg and your life changed forever.
Elliott Masie is my friend and colleague in the MG100 group founded by Marshall Goldsmith. He has many, many interests and has achieved great success in a lot of them.
He loved technology and learning and was one of the pioneers in showing how the intersection of these could lead to enormous increases in effectiveness. He did very well as an entrepreneur convening and producing events in the Human Resources and Learning fields.
Elliott, and his wife Cathy, also breed and race thoroughbred racehorses.
He has produced some 30 Broadway shows including hits like Kinky Boots and Anastasia.
Elliott was a bright kid but not an industrious one. He went to Stuyvesant School in NY, the go-to school for the brilliant nerds.
At Stuyvesant, he goofed off and cut way too many classes. Once he was caught while not attending class and conscripted to help an IBM technician transport some equipment.
IBM was donating its new minicomputer to select schools and Stuyvesant was one of the first recipients of this largesse.
Being a natural klutz, Elliott promptly dropped an unmarked carton that contained punch cards. He learnt a painful lesson. No, he could not simply pick up the cards and put them back in the carton. That carton, and another one, contained the operating system of the minicomputer. And the cards had to be in the exact same sequence they were in before he dropped them.
Elliott accompanied the technician back to IBM headquarters in Armonk to get a new operating system. It was a four-hour round trip, and they talked all the way. He was intrigued by what computers could do and remained an assistant of sorts for the unit his school received.
He parlayed this familiarity into innovative ways of using technology to help regular guys and gals learn complicated concepts and his first career was launched.
Dropping that box truly changed his life.
Here is a question for you – What event or incident, that you initially thought was trivial, had a momentous impact on your life?
And that incident also launched Elliott on a learning binge. He explicitly looks to see what he can learn every day. One of things intriguing him is how much information can a person absorb from one screen?
Have you ever attended a presentation where the speaker had five PowerPoint slides with eight bullet points each? Or fifty slides with five bullet points each?
No matter how well they are laid out or how impeccable the reasoning behind them, this leads to confusion, not clarity.
So Elliott is trying to get good data on how much is too much. He is an adjunct professor in the theory of learning at Wharton and trying to get a Ph.D. candidate to take this up as a dissertation topic. For more about other stuff he in interested in, go to www.masie.com.
And here is the next question for you: What are YOU curious about? What will you spend time studying simply because it intrigues you? If you don’t have any such topics, it is likely that you are leading a jejune life.
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