Olena Derevyanko: Those Who Were Taught to Read Properly Make the World Go Round

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How to bring up a true leader? Not just a bright deviant who inspires the masses and then loses the control because of his quirky teammates’ scheming. But a systematically-thinking and a far-sighted strategist who will be a success whatever he/she does: having inherited his/her parents’ business or seeking his/her fortune independently.

The well-known expert on companies’, parties’ and public people’s reputation management Olena Derevyanko told us about it. She participated in our project “Public People’s Kids” together with her three-year-old son Ilia. As a result, we got not so much an interview but rather philosophic reasoning on the eternal inspired by Marcus Aurelius or Montaigne.

Children and Their Parents’ Vanity
Successful people are always eager – consciously or subconsciously – that their children should be popular and influential. It does not matter whether this wish is a wealthy snob’s vanity or an aristocrat’s family pride. Everybody, whatever their ancestry is, wants their offspring to have a future not worse than that of their parents or their brighter forefathers at the height of success, as a maximum, or during a lifetime on average, at least.
There is nothing negative about this approach. In practice, it can result in both the so-called procreation and the semi-liberal permission to seek one’s own way within the limits of modus vivendi and modus operandi, and a wisely distanced attitude of a parent as a teacher-cum-observer. The main thing is to periodically test the adequacy of a ruler or a protractor you use to measure the degree of your child’s living up to your expectations. Because the erroneous system of criteria is a source of much trouble. The Hindu believe in spirits that bring some people a lot of wealth but deprive them from rejoicing at their offspring. The people who are backed by such powers are always displeased with their children – their behavior or their career – and suffer because of that. Quite a few examples make us believe that.

Bringing up a Leader
Until recently, leadership used to be a bee in the bonnet of the humanity. Start now, lead the way, be the first to strike an so on. Exaggerated but practical. Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Some “best of all hidden” trendsetters convince the humanity that:
consumption is evil, one should amass not money but impressions, wealth is not a goal in itself;
it is better to be yourself (no matter how imperfect you are compared to socially accepted standards of particular qualities) than to improve yourself and become a success;
freelancing is better than “office misery”, travel, don’t rack your brains, downshifting is our kin;
it is cool to be powerful and to influence others but only if you bear no responsibility for that (it is better to be a bla-bla opinion leader in social media than a president or a mayor);
homuncle technocratic executives not charismatic people are to rule.
Still, leaders will always set the direction of social development even if leadership is set to be the evil incarnate by those who aim at bringing up people to be submissive. The leopard cannot change its spots. And the child having a knack for doing something better than others cannot keep his/her talents back. Especially if he/she enjoys reasonable (not ecstatic but useful) support from his/her parents. Likewise, you cannot compensate anything for a lack of leadership potential – in this case the parents will make their child happier if they gently help him/her find another social role. At least, I have never seen any miserable eminence grise who finds it easier to play the main parts behind the curtain than in the limelight because of their personal qualities.

Power Apparent and Power Genuine
There have always been those who rule and those who are ruled. And there are various types of power sources:
a formal status in the hierarchy of leadership (in a country, corporation, or party);
real personal qualities that make it possible to influence other people (beauty, physical vigor, charisma, wealth, deep knowledge and practical wisdom).
And a public hierarchy status, in its turn, can be:
a derivative of a person’s inner qualities;
a result of the “unnatural selection” when those who are unfit to rule do it because those who are fit refuse from or are not allowed to hold the steering wheel by protectors of the unworthy.

To Read the Correct Books Correctly
Knowledge is the most reliable source of power. Of course, the knowledge which is not ivory-towered, lifeless and bookish but full of life. That is the knowledge that helps a child to finally shape an adequate worldview and to find an optimal path in it leading to self-expression and self-improvement. It is quite possible to write the whole book about it and I will probably write it. Still, I would like to outline the main things in large strokes. When a two-year-old kid has a knowledge of three or four alphabets, all the capitals in the world and the multiplication table, his/her parents feel flattered. Yet, in my cynical opinion of a teacher, it is like schooling circus dogs and horses to count. It is much more important to develop logical and critical thinking, skills of finding a way in social processes, to give a perspective of a variety of life and a multitude of possible scenarios.
And the main thing is to know it yourselves, without anybody’s help. Of course, the bookcase and the Internet contain much more information than the brainiest head. And it is preferable to have a well-set brain rather than a well-stuffed one. That is why even surfing the Net for data should be a knowing-how thing today. On the whole, it is unwise and short-sighted to rely on the technological body of gadgets. It’s like a developed country’s outsourcing all its manufacturing to the cheap “third world” and then complaining of the growing unemployment. Also, in the modern world full of various threats, there is a great chance of being left alone with a dead smartphone and such-like devices in the concrete urban jungle – say, because of the blackout caused by an energy supply company or terrorists. Do you remember the joke, “The Internet said: I know all. Google said: I’ll find it all. Electricity laughed and went off”. So far getting seamless access to as much electricity from renewable sources as needed remains work for the future. So knowledge is to be in the heads not in the skies. A boundless net library and digital brains to hire will never substitute for a person’s own outlook, intellect, wits, common sense. That is why while the crowds are shedding tears of emotion at exciting prospects of Internet education, the elites are raising their children as people who can think for themselves – when dealing with practical affairs, choosing team-mates and advisors.
Basically, the world belongs to people who were in due time taught by their parents or school and life teachers to read the correct books correctly. This is what the Ukrainian business and political elite is in dire need for as, alas, the second-hand reading a la Coelho or poli-sci swindlers’ intellectualizing seem to be revelations to them. And their advisors are people who can retell banalities with an earnest and thoughtful air – like a radio program advertised some time ago, “I don’t read, I listen to Mary”.
Also, it is absolutely necessary to read historical works – biographies of outstanding people, memoirs, novels. So that history might not become a set of trite patriotic myths but actions of people made of flesh and blood (real or fictional characters) in a particular context. In this sense, “A Game of Thrones” that has incorporated the concentrated products of both the Borgias’ history and “The Accursed Kings” by Maurice Druon and a lot of others is more useful than any textbook. Moreover, both physics and mathematics and economics viewed historically produce an absolutely different residue quite applicable for breeding a leader. Especially if reading goes along with competent mentors’ explanations, a comparative analysis of events in space and time, immersion in the topic up to visiting historic sights.
Of course, everything I say sounds backward in our times of audiobooks and video content when only a few are able to read a page from top to bottom without being distracted. But these few are the real elite of the future. The one who can work with a text, who masters any other techniques of working with information easily because any video is made on the basis of a verbalized plot and any image presupposes a meaning.


Tags: Books; Education; Free communication; Free time