Paul Ward — An ECE Professor — On Mental Health

Earlier this term MHA directors interviewed Paul Ward, a professor and PEng from ECE. Paul Ward also sits on the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH). Dr.Ward speaks about his own journey with mental health and the current state of mental health on campus.

I’d like to personally thank Paul Ward for being the first professor to appear on this blog, and would encourage others to consider the initiative.

If you have a story to tell or are interested in being featured on the blog, email us at engsocmha@gmail.com.


Q: can you share a little bit of background about yourself?

Oh, I carefully plotted my rise to eventually take over the planet. I’m right on schedule, in the year 2050, I become supreme ruler, and three years after that, I die. No. don’t be deceived by the accent, I actually came to Canada in the early 80s, and have spent three quarters of my life in Canada, first New Brunswick, a couple of years in Nova Scotia. I’ve also lived in Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, and other countries too. I’ve moved around a bit. I became a faculty member here in 2001 in ECE, and I’ve been faculty here ever since.

I do the software end of ECE. My PhD is in CS, and my undergrad is in electrical engineering. I’m not your typical faculty who did bachelors, masters, PhD, then prof. I worked after my bachelors, I worked after my masters, I worked at tiny little startups all the way through to IBM, in various capacities doing various different things. My first job was embedded systems designer which was cool and funky.

I did my undergraduate at University of New Brunswick, my Masters was in the early 90s in Waterloo in ECE, and my PhD is in computer science at Waterloo. I also spent a year at the Weismann institute in Israel in a research position, and I spent a year at Simon Frasier as a research associate. Been around to many universities. It’s fun and useful, you learn a bit. Universities are quite different. I’m on the faculty association board, and the relevance of that, is that’s why I’m on the president’s advisory committee because I’m the faculty association rep on that committee. Part of my job on the faculty association board is I represent our faculty association at the Ontario level of all the various universities faculty associations. So, I also see what universities are doing at various levels from that too.

Q: Why is mental health awareness important to you?

Various levels. I can say that, personally, its affected me and my family which I can talk about more a little later. Let me talk about not mental health but a physical issue. Not for me personally, but when I was doing my undergraduate degree I had another friend going through electrical engineering who had dyslexia. It was very interesting, if he wrote something down and you looked at what he wrote you would say “I don’t understand a word of this, in fact I don’t even know what the words are.” But if you kind of pronounced it out as you went it kind of made sense. It was kind of like his own phonetic language. Fundamentally what this guy did was he recorded lectures and had them transcribed from which he was then able to study and in turn was able to go through undergraduate electrical engineering. This guy was incredibly creative, and an incredibly smart guy, I don’t think he had any support at all other than what his parents gave him and or his own earnings to pay for this whole thing.

So, I look at that as an example of somebody where there’s no ambiguity about what the issue was. Its dyslexia and it was diagnosed. He clearly was a creative individual, and he clearly was a successful engineer, but he had very little support. I shouldn’t say he had little support. I don’t think there was ever a stigma on him, or any issues regarding him, but there wasn’t any support either. He was sort of a benign neutrality I suppose. And I look at that, and I see a person who could really have used some support and help in dealing with that. I can easily imagine a different person in the same circumstances totally unable to go through because they couldn’t afford whatever the issues they were facing. In the case of dyslexia, that would-be recordings and transcriptions.

So, in terms of mental health, there’s a level where I view this as purely an accessibility issue which amounts. There’s two types of impediments, there’s the type that says this is never going to happen. For example, I’m never going to be an NBA basketball player. That was true when I was a kid because my height is like 5’9”, 5’10”. I’m not going to be an NBA basketball player, it isn’t going to happen. If somebody’s in a wheelchair, they’re not going to be able to do whatever things where you actually need to be able to walk around. I don’t know, riot control police officer or fire fighter. But, Steven hawking is a good example of a guy where it didn’t matter that he had an illness, that would have killed him by his mid-20s, but by virtue of having the supports necessary to deal with that, he’s able to succeed.

There’s a whole segment on why I’m involved with this that comes down to it being a stupid waste of resources for people not to be able to do things who could be wonderful and amazing at it. You kind of wonder in human history how many Steven Hawking’s have been lost. That guy, he got a certain amount through national health, but a lot of what he’s got he’s paid for out of his own pocket.

Mental health for me, I don’t distinguish mental health from physical health. If you’ve got a disability that is an impediment but which is not an inherent impediment to what you want to do, then if you can remove obstacles, that is a good thing. That whole side of it is why I do this.

The personal motivation is as I said I have some family history in there. I personally was diagnosed with depression in 2012 or 2013 under some interesting circumstances. I wound up having a six month leave of absence because of that. Actually, it’s surprising. When I was diagnosed, I was diagnosed by two separate individuals, unaware of each other and unaware of each other’s diagnoses who came to the same conclusion. One was a psychologist, one was a psychiatrist both coming to the same conclusion that I had ongoing chronic depression. What was rather amusing was one of them saying “well you kind of tried to hide it, but you’ve got depression.” To which I was like “I didn’t even know I was trying to hide anything.” Which surprised me.

I have several children, two of my children have anxiety issues, one of those two also has ADHD issues. Both of those two are on medication. I’m not on medication. I’m not a fan of medication, but I’m not opposed to medication. I’m very neutral about the medication issue. I don’t know enough about it. I know there’s some evidence for it, and I certainly know that there’s plenty of evidence to show that brain chemistry effects the way your brain functions, because there’s not a shred of doubt about the evidence that says so. Your brain is not this simple neural network, it’s sitting in a chemical soup, and the chemical soup that it’s sitting in effects how the neural network works. Kind of interesting for all those people who basically want to upload their brain into a computer.

Q: There’s a fair bit of stigma still on campus about mental health. Do you think that this is something that will lessen over time? And if so what steps can students or admin take to reduce it?

So, I thought about that question for a bit, and the first thing I’d like to understand is. Well we don’t know the answer to this, but let me ask the question, what is the evidence that there is a stigma about mental health? And I ask this very simply because I know that every year, around February there’s mental health awareness month. Everybody’s got a day or a month nowadays. Eventually we’re going to have garbage can cleaning month.

I have to be very conscious to think about how other people might think about what I do. I say that carefully and deliberately and I suspect that that may be somewhat true for a significant fraction of engineers, but not for a significant fraction of arts students. As engineers, we tend to be problem focused and sort of oblivious to all the sort of strange pink things that run around that we’re trying to build computers for. There’s a certain part of me that doesn’t know what people think about me, and at some level doesn’t care what people think about me. That’s been true since I’ve been a child. So, understand that when I say I wonder about this stigma issue has to do with that I don’t notice what people think, and if I did, I didn’t care at some level. Which I suppose is interesting. It means I won’t suffer from social anxiety.

So, the stigma I’m talking about or the stigma I’ve seen, is not so much on a personal issue, but that there are accessibility services which I’m sure you’re aware of, and sometimes students do apply under the pretense of mental health as anxiety or other reasons, and they are given certain accessibility to handle that. Now consider that other students look at that and say well they’re being given an advantage over me. I could be talking with a group of people and I would normally hear them talking about not liking the situation I described because it’s not a physical health reason but a mental health one instead. The stigma arises there, it’s not a personal attack, it’s just people looking down on it. If I was in that situation, I might second think myself and say “should I apply for this service? Am I “cheating the system” if I get these services.” Does that kind of make sense?

So, there’s a tension in here. Let me pull it out of most of this and look at ADHD. If I understand ADHD correctly, in a US context, so not even talking about Canada let alone the universities. Well, mental health drug prescriptions seem to be going to about 3 times as many Americans for ADHD as the American psychological association will say reasonably suffer from ADHD. There’s several research paper’s talking about over prescription of drugs. So, part of that perception you’re facing is based in some evidence that says there’s some weirdness going on in the system.

Part of that is also frankly sort of one of these realities of life. Everyone lives their own life. Everyone has positives and negatives in their life. And it can become incredibly easy to dwell on something negative that somebody’s saying and think “that’s a stigma about a thing” rather than “well, everybody’s got shit that happens in their life and everybody’s got good things that are happening in their life.” If they weren’t talking about this, they’d be talking about something else. I think at some level, some of that will never go away. That’s humans being humans. We’re social creatures and we gossip. I do think that as there becomes a better understanding of underlying cause of what’s going on with mental health, a lot of issues will begin to dissipate.

For example, if you had a tumor in your brain, people wouldn’t think twice about behavioral issues. Or for that matter, Tourette’s syndrome is an example of something that’s a genetic anomaly. Goes back about 300 or 400 years a Jewish shtetl in Poland. Basically, everyone with Tourette’s syndrome descends from this particular shtetl and it affects behavioral issues. There’s actually a case of a guy who was convicted of rape, and there’s no question that he committed the rape, but closer examination discovered that the guy had had some brain surgery and there was some chemical issues in the brain so there was no ambiguity that there’s a whole regulatory brain circuitry there which was disrupted so this person had no idea what they were doing.

What I would suggest is likely to happen is that we will learn more. Over diagnosis will likely decrease, people who have clearly defined issues will have more clearly defined tests saying here’s what it is, and then a lot of those issues will start to disappear.

I think there’s a sort of weirdness going on at the moment to do with is this a real thing, is this not a real thing, because there are instances where it’s not a real thing. Luka Magnotta, the criminal in Quebec who killed the Chinese guy, he tried to claim he was bipolar or whatever. Nope, guilty. On the other hand, you have the guy on the greyhound bus out in Manitoba who killed a guy and chopped off literally chopped off the guy’s head. No ambiguity, he did have serious mental health issues in the form of schizophrenia. I don’t have difficulty distinguishing these two. It’s something that I think is going to take time for people to become aware of this seems real, there are real instances, this really did affect that person, this really does affect that person.

That’s one big component where because of the limited understanding at the moment that’s what you’re running into. Then the second component will be that thing I talked about earlier where is this an impediment of the job, yes or no? I think that will be an issue for a little while, partly because of this first issue, partly because what is the job, what is the definition.

There’s a certain segment of if you’re doing a professional engineering degree, you’re expected to adhere to the standard of a professional engineer. If I think of an electrical engineering degree, it’s a form of applied physics. You could do a physics degree and get the equivalent knowledge, but there’s a professionalism standard in there. What does that standard mean? I don’t think we know that yet. I don’t think we know at a deep level what it is.

The normal standard of professional engineering is this public safety component which means that people have to be able to have a duty of care to the public and must be able to at times operate under extremely stressful conditions. There’s a certain segment of the population, mental health and intellectual ability aside, who will never be able to hit that standard. Because it’s too stressful for them. Imagine you wanted to be a surgeon. If you’re a surgeon you might be dealing with someone in an ER situation and you’re trying to do surgery in a hurry. I couldn’t handle that.

I think there’s those two issues at play. Over time, both of them will become more clearly defined, and as they become more clearly defined it will be easier for people. I don’t know if you know this, but in engineering, engineers do not have monopoly of practice. We’re very different from medicine. In medicine, they have monopoly of practice. You’re not allowed to take out your own or someone else’s appendix because you are not a doctor. On the other hand, you are allowed to design whatever electrical circuit you want, whatever bridge you want, whatever building you want. What you can’t do is call it engineering unless you are a professional engineer. That’s the monopoly of title business. There’s a certain segment of that which is defined. How that plays out over time I don’t know.

I think there is a clear difference between I’m just interested in just doing stuff I think is cool and funky, versus I’m interested in personal professional liability and being sued personally and not having a corporate shield. That is the standard, that’s what you get for being an engineer. It becomes interesting. There was the case of the bridge collapse in Quebec. The concrete stuff going off the bridge and five people died. When the average person hears that in the news, they will think “oh, that’s sad.” When I hear that in the news, I say that’s sad but there’s also another part of my brain saying that some engineer is going to lose their license. That’s what my brain is thinking. Some engineer said that was safe, and that wasn’t safe. That’s the duty of care. So anyway, those I guess are the two things. I think that will decline over time. On the neuroscience and the brain science end of things we are getting more of an understanding and we will continue to get more of an understanding.

Q: So how familiar with you are you with the mental health resources available to students?

So, I looked at that question and I thought that other than the fact that I know we have a counselling service, I don’t know much about the details. I’m just not an expert in that area. I gather there are some issues with it thought it’s better than it used to be. I gather that there used to be a general counselling services and now its devolved to the faculties so there are more specific counselling services for the different faculties. I gather that there’s some improvement there, but also that there’s some organizational chaos.

Q: How has mental health awareness changed since you were an undergrad?

So, that’s why I started with that story of my friend. Forget about mental health awareness, there wasn’t much about physical accessibility. If I think about those doors to the Davis Center, that was the graduating class of 2004 that paid for those doors. That’s an embarrassment to the university I think, or it should be. I have to admit to a fairly high degree of frustration here. I don’t know how far back this sort of goes, you may have been too young to know this. The Canadian safety association regulates standards for all sorts of things, but one of the things they were looking at was playground equipment.

Several years ago, they said that certain playground equipment has not had any issues, has not caused any deaths, but could potentially have issues. So, going forward, it would be a really good idea if we had playground equipment not like this, like this. So, the TDSB said panic. We’ll rip down all of the playground equipment. For a year or so there was no playground equipment in the schools. It must have been horrible to be a kid in one of those schools. And look, I grew up in a world where teeter-totters were a thing, if you were at the top and your friend got up, god help you, you were going to have a sore crotch. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

There’s a certain level of over protection that reminds me of some overprotection done in the 30s, 40s, 50s about preventing children from germs. Because of that they didn’t have a good immune system so the first germ they encountered kind of knocked them out. There’s a certain level, while I would not be in favor of let’s teach kids how to deal with safety, and instead of having walls from here to the crossing, let’s have a nice sort of lord of the rings thing where Gandalf dies. Let’s build our bridges like that. That would be stupid. I don’t understand the dwarves wanted that. It’s kind of like yeah, they want to die. That’s stupid. But at the same time, you need to build a sort of resilience too.

There’s a tension between sort of complete wide open and absolutely protecting anything in which case you’re never going to build resilience. One of the things about mental health and mental illness is it’s worthwhile to consider what are we trying to achieve here? And the answer is we want to build people who are mentally strong. Rather than think in terms of protecting people, think in terms of how do we get to a stage where to use your example, you’re using the accessibility service and you hear people saying dah dah dah dah dah and you are in a mentally strong place so you don’t care, and say that’s your problem not my problem.

There will always be people who will use whatever derogatory term, so a good place we could get to for mental health would be for people to say that yes I have this issue, and I know I have this issue. I’m kind of coming at that from a CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy )perspective. Having depression, there’s about three things that have very good evidence based in terms of mental health. One is the drugs issue, one is mindfulness, and one is CBT. And I went the CBT route and its really good. I personally think it would work really well for engineers in general. The CBT route basically says, nobody can offend you. Nobody can affect your emotions because your emotions are not determined by other people, your emotions are determined by your belief system.

So, if somebody says “you’re ugly.” Rather than me saying “Oh, I’m deeply upset,” and I crawl into a corner and I just want to die. I say well wait a second. CBT says that action doesn’t lead to a consequence. That action combined with my belief system leads to a consequence. So, what’s my belief system that causes me to be upset? Well I believe that the person who told me that was, telling the truth. Or I believe that that person I care about that person’s opinion, and I care about the fact that I look ugly. Any one of those beliefs could be false. As soon as I have some negative emotion, technically it applies to positive too. But hey I’m feeling really happy. Why the hell am I feeling really happy? What in my belief system is causing this. I can do this at that end but I don’t tend to worry about it.

When I’m feeling an emotion sad, angry, upset, depressed, whatever, first of all I need to recognize that and I feel really shitty. So, I need to pause a second and say okay, why, what is it? Oh, it’s because he told me I’m ugly. Oh, maybe I do care about his opinion, maybe his opinion is true. But what do I care because does it matter if I’m ugly? I’m being paid to lecture people, not to look good. Hookers are paid to look good. All of a sudden, I feel better by putting hookers down. Of course, I shouldn’t do that. But, at some fundamental level, I’m being paid I’m not being paid for my beauty, so why do I care. Even if what you say is true, and even if I care about it, it doesn’t even matter. So, all of a sudden, I start taking ownership for my emotional state, and that’s where you get this notion of what is mentally health as opposed to mental illness.

Mental illness is I get buffeted around because events happen outside of me and I chose to let whatever my belief system is just sit there and take it, and I feel miserable or whatever because of that. We were asked at the beginning of this advisory committee about suggestions, and my two-cents suggestion is I think it would be really cool if every student could take a course in cognitive behavior therapy whether they’re ill or not it’s a hell of a useful thing to be able to understand that all of my emotions are in this category. Part of your whole stigma issue is if I can get to a stage where I don’t give a damn, then I don’t give a damn, and that helps. I know what my rights are, I know what the law is. I know where things stand. I don’t care what they think. That’s their problem. It helps because you become a much more mentally strong person. You are better able to deal with adversity.

As an engineer, you need to be able to deal with adversity. Someone said, “you have enemies, good. That means you are standing up for something.” It was Winston Churchill who said that. I am a bit of a fan, mostly because I and most of my country would be rather messed up without him. Britain would have surrendered without him. Which is rather sad. By the way, he suffered from huge levels of depression. Its rather sad that it was the will of one man which caused us to say that we’re not going to give in, one way or another we’re going to do this. Prior to December 41, Britain was slowly dying. They had won the battle of Britain but were spending more than they were getting in. World War II is one of those interesting wars in which Germany made a whole series of mistakes and if they hadn’t made them the war would have been very different. In 42, Stalin offered a peace treaty giving all kinds of territory to the Germans. If Hitler had agreed to that it would have been very bad.

Q: Is there any advice you would give to your younger self about mental health, or to someone who might resonate with the story you shared?

I think two or three things come to mind. One would be stoicism, CBT. Stoicism is sort of a 2000-year-old CBT. Understand that there’s a very weird nature about humanity. 100 years from now I’m going to be dead, you’re going to be dead, we’re all going to be dead. Maybe you’ll live a little longer, but wow what’s the point in doing anything. Well for my children, okay but think about how long does any given species last? You’ve got to have a heck of a strong belief system to say that the universe is as we currently know it.

19th century pessimists said that the universe is slowly dying. Eventually there will be this big uniform heat distribution. Eventually the universe expends to a point where there’s nothing. A billion years from now, the sun will be sufficiently hot that water will no longer be viable on the planet. You’ve got to have a heck of a strong belief in that system to say that damnit I’m not doing anything because there’s only a billion years left. A billion is a big number. Second of all, in evolutionary terms, anyone who decides that life just isn’t worth living excludes themselves from the evolutionary tree. So, there’s a cognitive dissonance there which says that I’ve got to believe that something is worth living for without really being able to pin that down. Stoicism at some level does that. CBT at some level does that. Basically, says that your belief might be wrong. Maybe things are different than you think they are and you don’t know it. Do we really know that the universe is going to expand forever and that’s all there is? You’re willing to make a billion-year prediction and say eh let’s cut myself out of the evolutionary tree. That’s kind of an interesting thing to do.

At some fundamental level, it’s about understanding here’s where my emotions are coming from, maybe that’s not true. Have you ever come across a video online called “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace? He suffered from depression very badly. It’s a graduation commencement address. It’s interesting because the guy is basically walking through some CBT type examples. He says imagine you’re driving in traffic and you get cut off by this big ass SUV. And you think “what a fucking arrogant asshole” and you get angry with the person. And you say wait a second, maybe that person was in a crash, and the only way that person can even muster the courage to get on the road is if it’s in a big ass SUV. I have a sister in law who very nearly died in a car crash. She needed 17 units of blood. That’s more than twice the volume of blood in your body. Her blood pressure was zero. I mention that because he gives an example and says maybe that’s the only way they can get in a car. Is it true? I don’t know. Is it likely to be true? Probably not. But could it be true? Yes. So maybe I shouldn’t get so upset because maybe they have a reason. There could be many other things that come to mind.

One of the things I see a lot on campus. Have you seen the protests that took place at Yale about the Halloween thing where the students were screaming at whoever the faculty member was who sent the stuff and you’re looking at the situation and sort of saying you’re at Yale. You’re the most privileged people on the planet. Privileged is the wrong word, you are at the very top of the pile. Because people that go to Harvard and Yale, they’re running the country, at least for America. They’re going to be running the country. Instead of looking down and saying wow, I am so far up the heap. Because of what I’ve done, because of my work this is why privilege is the wrong word. It is a privilege in the sense that not everyone can go to Yale, it is a privilege to be able to go to Yale. At the same time, you didn’t get to Yale because you’re privileged, you got to Yale because you worked your ass off to get there. Imagine climbing a skyscraper and looking up and instead of saying bloody hell, there’s people further up, look down.

This happens in spades in engineering. More or less everyone in mechatronics, electrical and computer, definitely in software, I don’t know about mechanical engineering but I wouldn’t be surprised, graduated in the top 10% of their class. Well, by Christmas of their first term 90% of them are no longer in the top 10%. Is it because they became dumber? No. it’s because you left all of those people behind. When you’re in a place like MIT, or Harvard, or Yale, or in our case Waterloo Engineering, you are privileged but you earned the privilege. You worked for that. The saddest thing in the world, do you know the MIT colors? They’re red on grey. They have a very macabre expression “blood on concrete”. Because too often somebody decides to jump and kill themselves. And that is the saddest thing in the world, because if the kid went to (sorry, I’m 50) if the student got into MIT, they are so smart. If you got into engineering at waterloo, you are so smart. That’s a belief system that you need to keep in your mind.

Does that mean you’ll graduate from engineering at waterloo? No. data says there’s a percentage who won’t. But does that mean you’re going to fail in life? No. Here’s a concept, even if you did a degree in engineering at waterloo, that doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed in life. And if you didn’t, that may be the best thing that happened to you because you may go onto great success. There’s some correlation, some statistics. I’m not going to say that an engineering degree is valueless, it’s very valuable. You know, life is much bigger than whatever it is you’re doing at the moment. That is kind of the belief you need to keep in mind.

People get things backwards all the time. “I have to do this otherwise my life is over,” no it isn’t. I mean what’s an economy? This is the thing that scares me about our growth plans for Ontario. We need high density housing. Why do we need high density housing? Because public transit doesn’t work otherwise. Wait a minute, that’s backwards. Transit exists for people, people don’t exist for transit. If people want to live in low density housing, then let them live in low density housing. The economy is simply a statement of this is how we live our lives. And we should be living our lives. We spend way too much time thinking “oh my god I’ve got to do this.” Actually, that’s an example of a clue I got in terms of in my depression. Binary thinking. Got to, have to, always, never. These are very untrue statements, and these are the ones which are easy to challenge. “I always screw up,” okay no, I can come up with an example where you didn’t. Here’s an example, you got out of bed this morning? Yes. You got dressed? Yep. Made it to the university? Yup. Didn’t screw up. Is that something? Yeah, it’s something. You build on that. I have an uncle who I didn’t discover this until after I was in depression.

He was living in London at the time, and he phoned me and we had a lot of conversations with him on a very regular basis. It was because of those discussions that I discovered that when he was twenty something he had effectively had depression, probably not diagnosed. He got to a point where he couldn’t leave his house. That was when his brain kicked in and said wait no, I do know how to leave the house. That’s kind of how it is with mental illness. You get to a stage where you are terrified to leave the house. And you say wait a sec, no. Mental health for me, is about you being healthy mentally in that sense of what is true, what do I know is true. What do I think is true that’s upsetting me that might not be true? Somebody said there are two things that are interesting in people, can and must. I You must do this, oh nope not going to. When you have young kids, here’s an experiment to do. Tell them that after dinner, you must have ice-cream for dessert. Nahh I don’t want to. Two minutes later, you ask do you want ice cream? Yeahhhhh. It’s very interesting. Humans seem to reject must and look for can. This is where I guess some of the mental health issues come from.

I don’t have to do this, I may be able to do this. One off the things I found useful, is there’s a hell of a lot of people who got through engineering before me, I can get through to. Is engineering easy? No. If it was it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Garbage collecting is easy, it takes some physical effort but it’s just about dumping the garbage in. The amount of salary people get in society is not just because something is hard. It’s very hard to play the violin while holding a harmonica and having a drum on your back, but that gets you a job as a busker. I’m quite sure it’s very hard to do. Juggling the same thing, it takes a lot of practice. But part of value proposition is this is not easy to do, there’s less people that can do it. But hold onto that you don’t have to do it. Knowing that you don’t have to do it makes it easier to do it. That’s another interesting thing.

Q: What’s a song you’re listening to or you really enjoy?

I noticed that now that you mention it, there’s always one at the bottom of the blog. I’m a big fan of Supertramp. I love Supertramp songs. Fool’s overture is nice now that I think about it. There’s a lot that they have which is really good. School is another one. Let me tell you something, when you have academic ability that can be a bad thing as much as a good thing. There’s a lot of smart people running around that think society owes them something because they’re smart. But smart’s only one thing, and smart can actually really get in the way. Intelligence is not the same as wisdom, they’re very different beasts. There are some very wise people who haven’t even finished grade school, and there’s a hell of a lot of idiots with PhDs. The thing that’s really cool is that they knew how to play musical instruments.