Soozy Miller Shares Wise Words From Shakespeare and the Joy of Being Done With Math

Noodle Expert Soozy Miller shares some of Shakespeare's wisdom and the relief of being through with math.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

I would like Simon Sinek to be my teacher for a year. Sinek is the author of “Start With Why,” part of a series of books and lectures encouraging a specific leadership philosophy. His argument is that the most successful and groundbreaking work in history is based on community connection to a common idea, not the actual product or service itself. This principle, Sinek maintains, develops agile, sensitive, efficient, and smart management. If the foundational concept remains the focus of the company, regardless of company growth and personnel changes, the company will maintain loyal followers, consistent buyers, and steady growth.

I have watched Sinek’s “Start With Why” video on TED Talks, Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe, and many others. Sinek is an inspiring, casual, articulate, and engaging speaker. He explains the physical, biological, and historical reasons why organizations — and communities — that are based on common ideology and culture fulfill the needs of all involved. He is a truly innovative thinker who inspires leadership-change all over the world.

So far, I have learned from him how to create a business that is built starting with "Why," and I’ve experienced the results he talks about: I have enjoyed a 99 percent conversion rate when I employ his ideology to create alliances for my two new business ventures. If I could, I would ask him lead me through one year of business to help me maintain the founding philosophy as the businesses grow. When implemented properly during growth, I think Sinek’s lessons would give me the courage to lead in the way inspiring leaders lead; trusting the employees, and making smart and beneficial decisions.

Sinek’s ideas apply to life outside business as well, and I believe his lessons are not just about being a dependable leader, but a dependable person. I want to be that kind of leader — the kind people enjoy, and who attracts people who want to be involved and to give their time in order to build something wonderful.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

“To thine own self be true.”

... which is part of:

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

From Act. I, Scene 3 of “Hamlet,” this is the final piece of advice Polonius gives to Laertes before Laertes departs.

My mother used to say this all the time when I was growing up; I just didn’t know back then that it is from Shakespeare. I was a nerd and very shy when I was little, so it was difficult for me to hear “just be yourself” when there was so much judgment by peers, pressure to be cool, and bratty behavior in school.

But, as an adult now, I understand. I will always try new things and enjoy going out of my comfort zone sometimes. But I now understand there are certain characteristics that are simply inherent to me that I cannot change and shouldn’t fight. I know that I can’t always make my frizzy hair straight in the humid summer months, that accounting perplexes me (see below), and that I will never try extreme sports. So I stay away from things that make me feel uncomfortable and enjoy activities I know I can do well — especially those that benefit others as well. I do love win-win situations. That’s why I write and why I published ADHD to Honor Roll I know I’m a good writer, and with the book, I expressed the necessary points in an understandable way to help other parents.

Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?

I would send an American student to England, which is a good “starter” travel destination for Americans. British English is similar enough to American English that a student wouldn’t be completely lost, and the culture is different enough from ours that she could learn that cultures can be similar and different at the same time. Now, more than ever, an American can be comfortable in England, particularly in London. There are many American chain stores and restaurants in this city, and the pub food has improved markedly in the last 20 years. Many pub chefs have expanded their palates to include menu items from all over the world, and there are multiple 5-star restaurants among pubs today.

Moreover, England is considered the “jumping off point” to the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe for travelers crossing the Atlantic Ocean; an extended-stay student wouldn't feel so homesick in England, and she would be able to travel from there and learn about the United Kingdom and Europe.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

I took a course called "Logic" in my freshman year of college to fulfill my math requirement. I nearly failed — I got a D. The first part of the course was understandable and easy, and I was excited because it seemed better than my other option, calculus. Then it got much more difficult very quickly, and I didn’t understand the concepts and grew to hate the course. I had to be away while the final exam took place, so I took the exam when I got back from break, even though it was impossible to study the first day of my return. I guessed at most of the answers — something I had never done on a test and have never done since. When the professor told me I got a D, I thought, “Yes! I passed! I never have to take a math class again!” I was more than happy to be through with that requirement so I could concentrate on subjects that I really enjoyed, like English literature and theater.

I’m really not a math-natural, and I shouldn’t pursue anything in that field. I knew I wasn’t going to be good at everything, and I felt I was at college to follow my interests and talents to figure out what I should be doing. So, after that "Logic" exam, I did just that.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

I actually didn’t “go” into my field; it kind of happened. My college winter vacation was a month-long, so while I was home my senior year, I decided to sit down and write. Some people who came over to our house caught a sneak-read of some of the material and all commented that I was a talented writer. I hadn’t been acknowledged before that point.

After college, I worked for the movie magazine, Premiere Magazine as a production manager. One day, one of the editors caught me in the hallway and asked if I would like to write a short piece about the actor Aiden Quinn, who was hosting a documentary film festival. It was nearly 4 p.m., and she was desperate to find anyone to attend and write the piece. So I accepted, and she liked my article. The video-review editor read the piece and asked if I wanted to write some video reviews. When I moved to Time Warner, I started writing more.

I have been asked many times to fix other people’s work, so I’m always surprised by the poor quality of writing by people who call themselves professional writers. Companies are not willing to pay writers well to ensure their text is error-free and appropriate. I have had to quickly clean up many writer mistakes and still make the deadline.

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