It always pains me to sit before students who admire the work I’ve done or who aspire to mimic the things I’ve accomplished, and to say very vehemently before them and their professors that I truly believe the educational system is broken for too many reasons to name.
Traditional schooling didn’t work for me (I dropped out twice), hasn’t worked for many of my closest friends, and it hasn’t worked for the handful of successful entrepreneurs who also dropped out of school in favor of their own pursuits.
Sir Ken Robinson said it well in his famous TED Talk, “Do schools kill creativity?” (now with over 8 Million views on YouTube), when he announced, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Robinson believes that schools breed mistakes out of children to their detriment. He says that school ingrains within kids (and therefore, the companies that these children eventually found or join) this stigma that being wrong or failing is something to be afraid of. This means that children are less likely to take risks over time, less likely to be creative in their approaches, and less likely to try new things for fear of failing.
But breeding a fear of failure is only one of the reasons why the educational system is broken. That collective fear feeds this hive-mentality which believes the pathways to success are limited, and that venturing from these paths means you are absolutely unsuccessful.
You didn’t graduate from an Ivy League school? UNSUCCESSFUL! You can’t drive a car? UNSUCCESSFUL! You’re not married, don’t have a boyfriend, and don’t have kids before you’re 30?! UNSUCCESSFUL!
If you’ve been following me online long enough, you’ll know that I do not subscribe to these beliefs at all.
My failures have often been the anchors for my success.
Because I have failed, I am prepared to fail. My failures are what keep me cool under pressure. My failures are what keep me constantly thinking creatively around potential obstacles and road blocks. My failures are the reason I’m so easily able to risk-assess to my advantage, and often to the advantage of the friends I surround myself with, or the clients I work with. My failures are the reason why I am a whole, forgiving, and laid-back human being. In fact, at one point, I believe the tag line for my blog used to read, “Sherilynn Macale: Making all the mistakes so you don’t have to.”
I have been a repeat offender of failing, and I fully believe that this is what has made me awesome and successful.
And yet, it always surprises me when I sit down with a “friend” who takes it upon him/herself to advise me against all of the apparent mistakes I’m supposedly currently making.
I was recently told, for example, that not only should I not model, but that I should only focus on my social media and branding consulting. It’s a mistake to have fans, I was told. A mistake to pose for cameras, to accept gifts from followers, and to openly thank them for it. “Your Internet fame isn’t doing anything for you,” this person said, “So you should stop trying to grow it, and focus only on business instead.” Only then would I be “successful”.
… Lol. Wut.
I could spend forever tearing apart every single wrong piece of advice this friend gave me, but that’s not the point of this post. My point is:
There is a serious problem with the way society teaches the concept of success.
I fully believe that traditional schooling and old school thinking has brought up a good chunk of society to believe that in order to be successful, there are a finite amount of paths we can take. I also believe that when one person defies this traditional thinking and is, God forbid, “successful” in spite of it, it freaks people out.
Humans are tribal creatures who mentally survive by comparing themselves to others. This is why social media channels like Facebook are so popular. We might deny that we enjoy Facebook for various anti-trendy reasons, but the truth is, many of us are addicted to seeing updates from our friends’ lives, and feel saddened when our own lives seem to fall short in comparison to the majority.
This is why when someone does well while also accomplishing this in an unusual (“wrong”) way, it makes a lot of people feel angry/upset/confused.
Humans are used to bucketing people into categories and only understanding the people around them by what buckets they fit into. The idea of, for example, an Internet famous and “sexy model” who also happens to know her shit when it comes to successfully building multi-million dollar infrastructure is too much for some people to handle; that sort of person isn’t exactly common. That sort of person just doesn’t exist to someone who’s never seen anything like this before. Therefore, that sort of person is not allowed to exist, and any instance of that sort of person actually, y’know, existing must be stopped at all costs! For the sake of traditionalism! For the sake of limited comprehension! Someone stop this radical life-liver and burn her at the stake! Error-error-does-not-compute-must-destroy!
This is where I believe my friend’s “advice” came from.
But it’s cool. I don’t take it personally. It’s not my friend’s fault.
It’s traditional and deeply ingrained thinking that no longer makes any sense in the modern world.
And it’s our shitty educational system that doesn’t encourage nor hone effective risk-taking.
If you haven’t already, watch Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on how the educational system is slowly breeding out-of-the-box thinking and creativity out of children here:
Recently, a fellow female entrepreneur, Hermione Way, invited me to join her for a casual meeting with other successful CEOs and Founders in San Francisco. Also attending this meeting were Western Michigan University students Jaime Maya, Chris Campbell, Daniel King, Daurice Key, and Rebecca Newberry, along with their professor, Barclay Johnson. The goal of the gathering was to sit down with these students, allow them to interview us, answer any questions they had about our various successes in Silicon Valley, and to inspire them in their future careers.
As we each spoke in turn about our accomplishments and stories, I remember feeling overwhelmed with satisfaction in my personal achievements, something I don’t often feel due to years of being jaded by my own work.
“We’re huge fans of yours,” I remember the students saying. “When Hermione said she could bring you to the interview, we said YES! PLEASE! We love her!” This, of course, made me laugh shyly because I suck at handling compliments in person… But more importantly, that entire exchange — sitting with students who respect my work while surrounded by successful entrepreneurs who were also equally impressed by my accomplishments — it all made me realize: I’m actually doing really well for myself. And anyone who says I’m not is an idiot.
Even so, talking myself up and feeding off of the compliments felt wrong.
There’s more to success than just, y’know, being successful.
“We can’t just talk about our successes,” I remember saying, slapping my hands on the table where we all sat. “We have to talk about our failures! I wasn’t always a raging success. I’ve failed way too many times in San Francisco — more times than I can count! It feels misleading to just go on and on about how successful we are, because that hasn’t always been true.”
That’s when things started to get real.
As we shared our stories about failing at various points in our career, Professor Barclay admitted to how difficult it was for his own students to feel inspired or motivated to think radically and take risks, especially in Western Michigan where “traditional thinking” reigned supreme. The comparison/contrast between San Francisco and Michigan was stark. The idea of wearing a tee-shirt and jeans to an interview in Michigan, for example, was unthinkable, whereas here in Silicon Valley, wearing a tie could easily earn you several snickers behind your back. And not the chocolatey kind.
Is anyone else craving chocolate as much as I am right now?
This saddened me.
The idea that someone, somewhere, would be held back in life because they didn’t wear a tie was just … WTF.
When I think about wearing ties, I think about Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson, as he snips the ties off of his employees. I respect and idolise Branson for many reasons, but most of all, I respect him because he defies traditional thinking aggressively and often, takes incredible and radical risks, and at the same time, is successful because of it.
Here is a picture of Richard Branson kitesurfing with a naked supermodel on his back:
Did I mention he’s also a multi-billionaire, philanthropist, successful entrepreneur, founder of a multi-faceted empire, owns his own private island, is launching one of the first commercial vehicles to take humans into space, and he dropped out of school at 16?
… Yeah. NBD.
When someone tells you to only focus on one thing, then insists that this is the only way you’ll ever be successful in your career because that’s “just how it’s done“, point them to this blog post, then perform the following GIF with gusto:
Who says you can’t do everything you’ve ever wanted to? Richard Branson did it. I’m doing it. In fact, I am perpetually confused by my goals and always far too excited to pursue new adventures, and because I own this life-lusting part of me and embrace it, I am successful. Because I don’t allow other people to tell me what to do when it comes to fitting into their idea of a “successful career”, I am able to accomplish so much more than they ever will, at amazing speeds, and all in one lifetime.
Anything is possible.
Did you know that today’s adults can only absorb 1.3 channels of information successfully, but today’s children can soak in 5.4? This means that while the average adult can just barely absorb a TED Talk while simultaneously texting a friend, today’s child can watch a TED Talk, play a video game, update his/her Facebook status, talk on the phone, scroll through the latest news, and still have 0.4 of his/her attention span left over for homework. This study comes from Martin Lindstrom, world-renown and international best selling author of several books dissecting human psychology and how it relates to branding (and who I’d very much like to work for and learn from someday).
The gist of the above is: you absolutely can do everything you’ve ever wanted to do, and you should; the human brain has the capacity to do so. And if you can’t, it’s only because you’ve trained your brain (or society and education has trained you) to believe that you can’t, and you’re stuck that way like the basic bitch you are because you refuse to believe differently.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It reads, “I think careers are a 20th century invention and I don’t want one.” Today’s “careers” are bullshit for all of the reasons I mentioned above. A traditional career assumes that you should slave away doing only one thing for the rest of your life, and if aren’t doing this, you’re “unsuccessful”.
I dunno’ about you, but that sounds like bullshit to me.
Revolutionaries that have changed the world were often initially rejected, banished, and even executed by people who freaked out because of society’s inability to wrap its head around disruptive concepts. Alan Turing, inventor of the computer, committed suicide because he was forced to take hormonal treatments to cure him of his homosexuality.
And today, people are getting pissed at me because I model in my underwear and also happen to want to run multi-million dollar branding strategies at the same time, and apparently, I’m only allowed to pick one.
At the end of the day, all the hate thinly veiled as “advice”, all the bullshit, and all the nay-saying in the world can’t detract from one important fact:
Your “career” isn’t success; your happiness is.
To me, happiness defines success. What more could I possibly want?
I live in San Francisco in my own apartment, have amazing friends, have clients banging on my door begging to work with me (and who I only reject simply because I don’t have the bandwidth; sorry!), have an amazing family who supports me in everything I do, and I have my own thriving personal brand with hundreds of thousands of followers, several high-end sponsors, and more.
And I’m pretty sure this all qualifies me to do whatever the hell I want, including modeling and running multi-million dollar campaigns at the same time. And no, I didn’t learn “how to be happy” from my school education.
Do what you want to do.
Be a rebel.
It’s your life.
I say this often, and I’ll say it again: “You hold the reins to your life, and no one else is shitting out what you’re eating.”
I’ll leave you with this amazing TED Talk with 13-year-old Logan LaPlante who discusses “Hackschooling”, a methodology for learning about life through experiences and allowing yourself to explore the things that make you happy without remorse. He gives me hope for the future of how tomorrow’s children will think, and I hope he inspires you to feel the same.
~ Sherilynn “Cheri” Macale
PS. My newest and hottest photoshoot with Jeremy Cortez Photography drops in a few days, and if you want early access to the photos, sign up for my VIP List now. Then, y’know, check out FOVE, one of my amazing clients, a company that’s invented incredible new technology that enables those who’ve completely lost the use of their bodies to interact with their loved ones and the world around them again. Oh, and then check out my Instagram where I post my newest art and tons of selfies pretty damn often. And BRB, ‘cuz now I’m gonna’ take the motorcycle I just learned to ride through San Francisco and bring the ukulele I just recently taught myself how to play down to the beach to write a couple of new songs, but only after playing GTA V for a while, cuz y’know, I can be a model and a business-woman and an artist and a musician and a gamer and WHATEVER-THE-HELL-I-WANT-TO-BE just because I feel like it.
PPS. Shoutout to the awesome teachers out there like Professor Barclay who are breaking free of traditional education and encouraging their students to think outside of the box despite an environment that hinders them. Also, another shoutout to amazing parents who teach their children that venturing down nontraditional paths is okay, and that they can be who they want to be, and do what they want to do, and that no one can stop them. Here’s to being happy.