From profound failure for so much of my earlier years, I defended myself against not getting ‘A’s in school and not standing out - standing out for anything, for spectacular underachievement.  I hardened myself to disregard all of the attributes of success, my skepticism about the student council and the National Honor Society and getting into Harvard and getting ‘A’s.  My skepticism about those things was infinite, it was just profound.  

Little flakes of laurel and success have come my way. A success, like everybody else.  

I think skepticism toward things like titles, good reviews, what the world calls distinctions, recognitions, can become mechanical, but it’s a good armor too.  And I’m not bullshitting when I say that it’s astonishing to me that my odd ways of thinking and playing with the sounds of words has made me sort of the 47th Degree of Poobah in the world.  It wasn’t to be expected and part of me is bemused by it.  Though, of course, the benefits and rewards of it are not to be sneered at.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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