Monday, March 16, 2009

All dreamers are not created equal

I learned, over a bowl of Kashi ‘U’, that dreamers are not valued based on the quality of the dream. We’re valued based on the number of people who think our dream is cool. Inequitable? I think so. But at present it is our reality. And as a dreamer, I ask, “Wouldn’t we be better off if we valued contribution over pop-culture bling?”

Why are Rock-stars and Supermodels more revered than innovators who cure disease, create industries and let you clap lights on and off? True, a great guitar riff with tuneful lyrics is entertaining. But is it really that much better than inventions like light bulbs and LEDs, the Leathermen Wave or discoveries like penicillin. Why aren’t there Inventor Groupies? It just feels like the populous response is disproportionate. Why do we cheer the rock-stars and only gawk at the inventors?

Recently, I got a glimpse of an answer from a TV show. I was sitting, on my couch, with my bowl of 7 whole grain flakes and black currants. I was too many steps from the remote so I watched what was on. The show? A “reality” show called, “Make Me a Supermodel”.

I understand the appeal of being a Supermodel. Money, fame and exotic locations make it a fun romp. But I also get the feeling that I am missing something. With all the great causes in this wonderful world, why set your sites on being a Supermodel?

This particular episode, shown on the Bravo Network, centered about “the runway”. Hopefuls ‘walk’ the catwalk while judges critique. A critique of walking, really? I thought it was silly too, but I watched. I wanted to know if I’d been doing it wrong all these years.

A montage of striking people ‘walked’ across my TV with varying degrees of style and grace. And strangely, I too could see who ‘walked’ better. Some looked natural, some stilted and others confident. Apparently, there is some science/art behind all the walking. But then I think, “what does it matter?”

So Supermodel, what difference do you make? Do you change the world in any positive way or does only your world benefit? Do you make any contribution by ‘walking’ better than I can?

Am I missing something? How many of us have ever been helped by a Supermodel? Few, that I know of.

Most of us have, however, been helped by inventors. Invention is about contribution. Innovators create things that make a difference. People feel the impact. And that’s why I believe Inventors are better than Supermodels.

I’m not saying modeling is an evil pursuit or that seeking to achieve Supermodel status is appalling. What I am saying is people should dream up new products while they fantasize about being a Supermodel or Rock-star.
Few people become Supermodels but everyone can invent. Today, more than ever, America needs more inventors. And the truth is inventors need cheering fans. Let’s work to make inventing as glamorous as ‘walking’.

I suggest you consider starting a robot competition at your local school like my friend Scott did. He’s no robot genius, he simply used SumoBots from The kids build their own robots and the battles begin.

Or bring your skills to your schools. I show school children how to invent. One of my inventions is the ColorCutter® Cutter Which means I have an arsenal of felt tip marker parts in my shop. Each year I bring marker parts and ink to classes and teach doe-eyed children to make markers.

Then everyone makes one, even the teacher. I hear children say, “It works!”, “ ‘I’ made this”, “I want to invent stuff” along with hoots and giggles. They leave with a feeling of accomplishment, a working marker and knowledge. More fun than walking the catwalk? Maybe. More substantial, useful and realistic, definitely.

We’ll all benefit by teaching the skill of inventing much more than if we focus on teaching how to look cool while you walk. IMHO…

Perry Kaye

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