|Steven Levitt, photo credit: University of Chicago|
Steven Levitt spoke to a crowd of mostly University of Chicago students and their parents (it was family week) on Friday night. Despite veering wildly off track from the promoted theme (sharing his new research and promoting his new book about retraining your brain to think more creatively), both Griffin and I were in complete awe of him as he told us about how he found his niche in economics, his dad's advice, and his work with prostitutes. He was captivating, funny, and interesting.
As you'll see in the notes, Levitt had to find a way to overcome his lack of skills in math to be successful in MIT's Ph.D. program and in his career and the advice his dad gave him, while funny, is also apt ("The only hope you have is to take on subjects so self-degrading, that nobody else will do it."). I recently read John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley (where he has a brief line about everyone carrying a bag of cement on their shoulders --- they're own personal struggles), and Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath (about how the underdog can win), and have found that a coalescing theme between all three is that everyone has their own struggle, but what matters is how you respond. You find your niche, you grow more compassionate, you develop coping mechanisms at a young age that can propel you as an adult -- whatever it is -- you find a way to overcome the obstacle and you are stronger in character because of it. (And sometimes wildly successful, too).
After telling us that the two worst words he can hear when he's out grocery shopping are: "Professor Levitt!", I was surprised to find that he was THE most congenial author I have encountered at a book signing. He insisted on knowing what each of us did for a living, and graciously signed the book with thoughtful inscriptions. Two young sisters were in line in front of us and I noticed that he wrote, "Hope to see you in my class one day". I was impressed with his stamina and genuine level of interest in seemingly everyone who approached him at the event.
Also, I am a fan of the Freakonomics series and particularly enjoy their podcast. A few of my favorite episodes are:
Parking is Hell
Should Tipping be Banned?
How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying
Videos w/Steven Levitt:
TED Talk - Analyzing Crack Cocaine
The Daily Show
On to the notes...