So I was quite a rebel in his early life because I was always determined to let him explore the world and do the things he loved.
Let's be honest - Jacob Barnett is an exceptionality. Not everyone's kid is going to change the world, nor are they blessed (or cursed) with gifts so incredible as to remove them from normal human communication. Nor is every person destined to reach self-actualization.
But we aren't really trying to seek out the exceptional, are we? If anything, we're pretty set on standardization. Sure, we think we want creativity, but in practice, it makes us uncomfortable. There's a rationale behind this that is explained by the fact that so many of us (perhaps especially those aggressive, competitive folk who reach the top of the food chain) don't see the value in reaching for something greater than personal success. For them, personal fulfillment is simply a marketing term for selling self-help books.
If we're honest, Kristine Barnett is an exceptional person, too. She risked personal stigma and the perceived risk of ruining her son's life by rejecting the standard methodology society wanted her to follow. She did, overcoming even her own self-doubt in the process. Because she loved her son too much not to try, the status quo was never an option.
There's a valuable lesson in this, one that will only grow in resonance as issues like youth unemployment, democratic malaise, innovation deficits and mental health in the work place start to connect for us consciously.
We keep trying to force round people to fit the square civic holes designed to keep the economy chugging along, causing friction for the individual and for society as a whole. It's the way we've done things thus far. Fortunately, the next iteration is always present at the ends of the old one. Design thinking for products, spaces and services is going to provide imagined solutions - and with them, new challenges to be solved.
After all, that's how evolution works - the exceptions eventually become the rule.
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