Our next door neighbor way back when was John Z. Soso.  He was a remarkable fellow.  He was an elementary school principal in San Francisco, and was perhaps the first one to have his school painted red, white and blue, back in 1976.  He also served in the U.S. Army infantry in Italy in World War II, although he never talked about that.  And he had a deep influence on the kids in the neighborhood.
But in a subtle way.
One day he spied me out in front of the house.  I was about five or six then.  He asked me, “Are you going to become a scholar?”
“What’s a scholar?”
Mr. Soso answered, “A scholar is someone who learns about a lot of things and really loves it.”
“I want to be a scholar,” I replied.
Okay, how long did this exchange take?  Ten seconds?
What six-year old wouldn’t have said “yes,” especially when the revered Mr. Soso asked?
And now, fully 50 years later, I really love to learn.
On another occasion, Mr. Soso spied me again out front.  He offered, “You know, you are going to spend about one-third of your life working, so you might as well work at something really worthwhile that you will enjoy.  Okay, gotta go.”  And off he went.
From that instant, I never considered having a job.  I decided to have a career.  Not that I didn’t have jobs along the way, washing and gassing cars to get through college and working at a pharmacy while in school.  But I never considered not having a career that provided excitement and fulfillment and learning.
There are two of the briefest of exchanges between Mr. Soso and me that shaped my life.
Finally, one day he asked, “Will, are you publishing anything?”
I was in high school by now.  With my face scrunched up as a 15-year-old boy can do, I asked, “Publishing? Publishing what?”
Mr. Soso said, “You should think about publishing an article here and there, about things you are interested in and know something about.”
End of discussion.
Start of this blog.

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2 Responses to Are You Going to Become a Scholar?
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