Aristotle was assigned reading in college. I read him like everyone did, to understand his concepts enough to write about them in essays and on tests. Also to talk about him at cocktail parties to look cultured.
His writing stayed academic to me—that is, abstract and historical, not connected to my life. I knew his concepts were important because everyone recognized his name.
Learning about emotional awareness and skills led me to learn more about how people looked at them before, which led me back to Aristotle.
Rereading him when my life drove my interest showed me that school killed my interest in him. Now I see him as a person like anyone, figuring out how to make himself happy, how to figure out how to live life, like anyone, though thinking about it focused and directly, and writing about it.
Seeing him as a historical figure made him seem not human. Seeing him as human made him more accessible.
I used to see a difference between liberal arts and science and technology or vocational learning. Now I see a difference between passive, abstract learning and active and performance-based learning.
I used to value abstract learning but now I look at abstract learning like learning facts unrelated to life or personal growth. Now I consider what drives learning is connection to something in your life and the chance to grow. What a distraction teachers teaching all those facts to get high scores on tests were.
He wrote some incredible stuff. I only learned that years after school.
By the way, I don’t pretend to have read that much of him.
What I wrote about him applies to many writers, although a lot of old writers also wrote academically, apparently trying to write like today’s teachers teach.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book