One more time

I took away two solid lessons from my college education. That’s not bad for four years and $100,000, right?

One lesson came from an English professor, and I’ve written about it here if you’re interested.

The other lesson came from one of my favorite theater professors, still ponytailed and hightop-wearing after all these years: the inimitable Len Berkman. I took many classes from Len during my time at Smith College, but this lesson came from the very first: a freshman-level overview of theater from the dawn of time to the present.

Len assigned us many short papers that semester, but we could opt to perform a scene instead. He had just one rule: We had to perform the same scene twice, putting a different spin on it each time.

As a know-it-all 18-year old, that was a hard thing to wrap my head around. I mean, obviously there’s only one right way to do things. Everyone knows that. Everyone except—thank goodness—Len.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve used that lesson. It keeps my mind supple when I’m brainstorming. It allows me to go to outlandish places—and stay there, client willing. It also helps me regroup if a client pushes back and wants to scrap my brilliant idea or rewrite a key section.

Creative people know there’s always more than one answer. I’m grateful I learned that so early, from a master.