J. Steve Miller is an award-winning author and president of Legacy Educational Resources. He's written eight books, some of which have been translated into multiple languages. He lives in metro Atlanta with his wife Cherie and enjoys caring for his 109-year-old grandmother and teaching at Kennesaw State University.
Welcome back to my blog, Steve. Please tell us one reason why “Brilliant People Believe Nonsense.”
Successful people are typically humble enough to get candid input from those around them. Solomon put it this way, "In a multitude of counselors there is safety." So the brilliant director Steven Spielberg, when he was filming E.T., was humble enough to ask seven-year-old actress Drew Barrymore how she'd put a certain line. The Mayo Clinic makes a big deal of gathering and respecting input from all levels of their organization, especially the desk ladies who have a lot of contact with patients.
So why do many brilliant people believe nonsense? Sometimes, they feel that their life experiences and degrees put them above getting input from others, especially those that they consider "beneath" them. That's one reason Enron failed. Some of the leaders felt they were so smart that they couldn't fail, and insulated themselves from much of the advice that they needed.
This new book is about critical and creative thinking. I love the title: Why Brilliant People Believe Nonsense. Please tell us about your new book.
During college and graduate school, I concentrated on acquiring the tools of learning, like how to do research and how to think critically, so that when I entered "the real world," I was able to sift through nonsense to get at the truth of vital issues. Those skills have come in handy as I've had to vocationally reinvent myself several times and continually learn new skills.
Now that I'm teaching incoming college freshmen, I'm struck with the impression that they can memorize lectures and take tests, but have never learned to question their teachers or texts. As one educator put it, much of modern education has become "transferring a set of notes from teachers to students, without going through the minds of either."
So in my classes I teach students how to think, and find that they love it! I wanted to write a unique text to help other teachers do the same thing, or to help general readers get what they may have missed in school.
Where did you get your inspiration for this subject?
Besides seeing the value of pursuing wisdom in my personal life, and seeing the need among my students, I'd say that raising my seven boys in a blended family (my first wife died in her 30s) motivated me greatly. The world pulls young people in so many different directions, and helping them to think through their lives forces me to seek wisdom in very practical terms. In raising a family, theory had better translate into something intensely practical, or it's useless.
What kind of research did you do?
Ever since my sophomore in high school, I've been an avid seeker of wisdom. I've always been drawn to the practical living sections of the Bible, such as Proverbs and James. From that foundation I branched out into reading endless biographies, from great business leaders to musicians to scientists to authors and intellectuals. Having read a couple of biographies of Warren Buffet, I can ask myself, "If Buffett were to be in my financial situation, what would he do?" Or "If Jack Welch were running my educational resources company, what might he do differently?"
So as I look around my office at the aftermath of my research for this book, I see about 200 books, many of them biographies, but also books on creativity, critical thinking, intellectual history, etc. From this research, I can use real life stories to demonstrate how brilliant people have often made dumb choices, and how we can avoid them.
Where can my readers find you online?
My author site, jstevemiller.info, can guide readers to my other online presences, including linkedin. Search J. Steve Miller on Amazon.com to find all my books. Thanks so much, Linda, for the interview! You do so much for your fellow authors!
Thank you for this interview, Steve. I hope my readers will check this book out.